Julia Dias (AFN)
Tuberculosis is one of Timor-Leste's major health problems. The disease is one of the largest causes of deaths in the country, which faces one of the highest incidence rates in the world, with an estimated 498 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and a total of 6,500 cases and 1,400 deaths in 2017. In order to face this challenge, the Government of the Special Administrative Region of Oé-Cusse Ambeno (RAEOA) requested technical support from Fiocruz to prepare an Action Plan to eliminate tuberculosis in the region by 2035. Eliminating the disease worldwide is one of the goals on UN’s 2030 Agenda.
The former Prime Minister of Timor-Leste and current president of RAEOA, Mari Alkatiri, launched the Plan on March 25.
The former Prime Minister of Timor-Leste and current president of RAEOA, Mari Alkatiri, asked the president of Fiocruz for cooperation and aims to develop and strengthen an integrated and robust regional health system, that can serve as a model for Timor-Leste.
"Tuberculosis is a serious problem in Brazil and, more than a medical problem, it is a problem that involves nutrition, housing conditions and education and culture”, said Fiocruz specialist Patrícia Canto, who was in the country in February to visit the health facilities.
Researchers from the Vice Presidency of Environment, Health Care and Promotion (Vpaaps/Fiocruz), the Fiocruz Global Health Center (Cris/Fiocruz) and the National School for Public Health (Ensp/Fiocruz) and members of the Tuberculosis Working Group in Manguinhos were responsible for drafting the Plan. The Working Group (WG) involves several units of the Foundation, as well as professionals from other institutions, such as the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and state and municipal departments.
The Plan was launched on March 25, in the wake of World TB Day, with the local authorities taking part. Actions are divided into two phases. The first is a restructuring of the local health system, with a focus on basic health care; the second one is specifically focused on the disease, actively looking for patients and promoting community participation.
The Presidente of Timor-Leste (right) attended the Cerimony that launched the Plan.
"It is necessary to educate for prevention and we must combat the stigma and prejudice that surround patients and their families and that are often responsible for delaying tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment”, explained Patricia, who has more than 20 years of experience in the field.
Fiocruz intends to continue the partnership with the country and should create an internal WG to discuss support to structure local health policies and the fight against tuberculosis. Cooperation with Timor-Leste was possible through Fiocruz's coordination with the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), linked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.