Tuesday, June 21, 2011

REMARKS BY His Excellency the Minister for Health, Democratic Republic of TL LAUNCHING OF Threshold project on Immunization

TUESDAY, June 21 2011

Ambassador Fergin, Mr Rick Scott, Head of Mission of the USAID, Members of the Diplomatic Corp, NGO Partners, UN Agencies and Distinguished Guests.

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you this morning to launch the child immunization project “Imunizasaun Proteje Labarik” in our continued effort to reduce child mortality in Timor-Leste and to reiterate our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

The MCC is very successful due to good politics and excellent leadership from the Prime Minister, H. E. Kay-Rala Xanana Gusmao.
Our success in moving towards this target is enhanced by the support we receive from our development partners such as WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA USAID and AUSAID. 
Immunization is the most cost-effective intervention to prevent and control vaccine-preventable diseases. It has led to the eradication of smallpox, the near eradication of polio, elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus, and to the control of other diseases, including measles and whooping cough which, at one time, could cause permanent harm or death.

Vaccines have saved more lives worldwide than any other health intervention in the past 100 years. Nevertheless, vaccine-preventable diseases can still infect those who are not fully immunized. If such a disease enters a community that is not fully immunized, it can spread very quickly and lead to serious health problems for many people. That's why it's crucial that everyone be fully immunized.

Immunization protects individuals and communities by preventing the spread of disease. As more people are immunized the disease risk for everyone is reduced.

It is important to keep immunizations up-to-date throughout our lives. Routine childhood immunizations begin at newborn, but recommended immunizations continue into adolescence and adulthood to provide ongoing protection. Immunizations, such as tetanus, need to be updated every 10 years.
The Ministry of Health has made huge steps in the developing the immunization program. After independence from Indonesia in 1999, routine childhood immunization was reestablished in early March 2000 at the same time the Expanded Program of Immunization was introduced in Timor-Leste. 
EPI is now providing immunization against major diseases, namely BCG, Hepatits B, Diptheria, Pertusis, Tetanus, and Measles.

The national schedule for infant vaccination follows the WHO recommended schedule. The national policy is for all children to complete the primary immunization series before the age of one year, with older children receiving immunization as needed.

The EPI in Timor-Leste has many good components The key elements are :
·        National immunization policy and strategic guidelines developed
·        Good Infrastructure : A well distributed network of health institutions throughout the country
·        SISCa provides an excellent model for delivery of health services.

The scope of routine immunization has changed. It is no longer the delivery of just six antigen as it was in the 1980s.  The Ministry of Health is striving to introduce different new vaccines such as rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines.  We have submitted an application for GAVI and we will introduce HiB vaccine as a pentavelent vaccine in 2012.

We must thank our partners including WHO, TAIS, UNICEF have supported the government efforts in the restoration of the immunization infrastructure.
Major obstacles to complete childhood immunizations in Timor-Leste are the poor care seeking behavior, the difficulty in accessing remote communities and inability to alleviate parents’ worries about the side effects of immunizations, as well as emphasizing proper childhood immunization schedules.

Through Imunizasaun Proteje Labarik the MOH will benefit from the support to improve immunization coverage by exploring different ways to enhance institutional and human resources, managerial capacity and broaden community awareness, participation and ownership. , This program will ensure safe and dependable vaccinations and healthier and more prosperous lives for boys and girls throughout Timor-Leste.

Imunizasaun Proteje Labarik will support the MOH to strengthen the implementation of our existing policies, plans and service delivery systems, including SISCa;

Supporting the establishing of community-level identification and mobilization of families to bring children for immunization; and
Supporting health workers to improve the management and monitoring of the immunization delivery system through use of coverage data.

Imunizasaun Proteje Labarik will work in the seven districts with the largest numbers of unimmunized children. 

The MOH has recently been challenged by the outbreak of measles.  With support from AusAID, UNICEF, TAIS and our partner NGOS we have been able to rise quickly to the challenge and the numbers of measles are reducing.  The immunization campaign was launched in Baucau in early June has focused on case identification and catch up vaccination.  Imunizasaun Proteje Labarik will enable us to sustain a focus of increasing immunization coverage when the campaign ends in August.  We must maintain this effort in ensuring routine immunization and focusing on hard to reach groups. 

Immunization is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself and your family from preventable diseases. I encourage all families in Timor-Leste to review your family's immunization status and take the necessary steps to ensure you are protected.

We are delighted that the US Government, through USAID and the Millennium Challenge Cooperation and MCHIP will support us in our goal of increasing immunization coverage in the country.  It is my great pleasure to unveil the official name and officially launch the project of  Imunizasuan Proteje Labarik. 

Thank You

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