Subject: AKI: Project targets infant mortality

East Timor: Project targets infant mortality

Dili, 31 August (AKI) - A non-governmental organisation in East Timor plans to launch a new project to reduce the infant mortality rate in the tiny Southeast Asian country.

East Timor may have one of the highest population growths in the world but 830 out of every 100,000 women and 85 babies out of a 1,000, die during child birth.

Women in East Timor have an average of 7.8 children.

In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), Veronica Correia, the director of the maternity and child health section of the Alola Foundation, said that the project is aimed at creating a network in the community to deal with the problem.

"The idea is to establish a series of networks in the community involving all the stakeholders, to provide support in five key areas: transportation, notification, blood group testing, fundraising and family plan­ning," Correia told AKI.

"The transport network will involve collecting infor­mation about all the transport mechanisms available at every level in the village, so that someone is al­ways available to take mothers to the hospital or a birth centre," she said.

Correia explained that the notification network will be responsible for preparing and updating the information about all the relevant women including the dates that they are due to give birth and their health status.

The blood bank network will be responsible for examining the blood of all the residents between 17 and 45 years old to the specific district and preparing a list of potential donors.

The family planning network will provide such information to the women and the fund-raising network will try to raise the money necessary to carry out all these activities.

"Fund-raising is crucial as we aim to be self-sustaining soon," she said.

To be self-sustaining, a voluntary donation of about 500 rupiah or 5 euro cents, has to be collected every month from every home.

The Alola Foundation will encourage even the pregnant women to save money every month.

"This money will be returned after the birth, so that it can help with the newborn," she said.

Correia explained that in the beginning the project will be sponsored by the oil company Conocco-Phillips.

It is still not clear which villages will be covered by the project but they will be in the district of Liquica, about 35 kilometres west of the capital Dili.

The project follows a similar one already in place and self-sufficient in the neighbouring Indonesian island of Flores.

"If it works in Liquica,we will look for help with other organizations and expand in more districts," said Correia.

The Alola Foundation is a non-governmental organisation that focuses on the development of women and children in East Timor. It was founded in 2001 by Kirsty Sword Gusmao, the Australian wife of East Timor's prime minister and resistance hero, Xanana Gusmao.

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