6 Improve maternal health

Where we are?

 A pregnant women receives a check-up at Dili’s Comoro Health Centre
A pregnant women receives a check-up at Dili’s Comoro Health Centre. Photo: Sandra Magno/UNDP TL

While maternal mortality (MMR) is falling in Timor-Leste, the rate is still alarmingly high. In 2009, MMR was 557 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Timor-Leste has introduced a national reproductive health strategy and a national family planning policy to tackle this issue. On-going training for health professionals in obstetric care and the implementation of emergency obstetric care is also bringing better services to pregnant women.

Eighty-six per cent of women receive some antenatal care from a skilled provider. As recommended, forty-five per cent of women had an antenatal care visit by their fourth month of pregnancy.

However, only three in ten births are assisted by a trained health professional, while close to half of all births are assisted by untrained friends or relatives.

While a higher percentage of births are attended by skilled health personnel in urban compared to rural areas, recently-established integrated community health posts (SISCa) are providing better health care services for women in remote areas.

One in five married Timorese women use a modern contraceptive, a significant rise on 2002 figures. However, there is a high unmet need for family planning. Almost one in three married women who want to either space or limit future pregnancies are not using contraceptives.

What needs to be done

  • Continued focus on developing maternal health facilities, particularly in rural areas
  • An increased number of skilled health personnel through education and training
  • A national behavioural change communication strategy on reproductive health 
  • Training progammes for traditional midwives and birth attendants to enable them to assist mothers during pregnancy and emergency childbirths
  • Dissemination of family planning education and government policies supporting family planning services, including the provision of contraceptives

Sources: 2009 The Millennium Development Goals, Timor-Leste, RDTL and UN; Millennium Development Goals 2010, RDTL, National Statistics Directorate, Ministry of Finance and ICF Macro, 2010; 2009-10 Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey: Key Findings, Dili, Timor-Leste, NCD and ICF Macro; Timor-Leste MDG-F Case Study Evaluation, 2012.  

UNDP's work in Timor-Leste

  • Microfinance clients attend weekly meetings to repay their loans and do their books. Photo: Clare Santry/UNDP TL

    Micro-finance helps bake Maliana’s daily bread

    Maliana – Delfina Fatima has been running her bakery in Maliana for a year. But the $500 loan she received a few months ago from onemore

  • Paul Tyndale, UNDP SERC project manager, demonstrates the new rope pump to community members in Duyung. Photo UNDP TL Crisis Prevention and Recovery

    Rope pump brings water to people of Duyung

    Metinaro – “To get water has always been a struggle here in our village,” says Augusto Soares Correia, a farmer and father of five, from Metinaro,more

Targets for MDG 5
  1. Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
    • Most maternal deaths could be avoided
    • Giving birth is especially risky in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where most women deliver without skilled care
    • The rural-urban gap in skilled care during childbirth has narrowed
  2. Achieve universal access to reproductive health & inadequate funding for family planning is a major failure in fulfilling commitments to improving women’s reproductive health
    • More women are receiving antenatal care
    • Inequalities in care during pregnancy are striking
    • Only one in three rural women in developing regions receive the recommended care during pregnancy
    • Progress has stalled in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, putting more young mothers at risk
    • Poverty and lack of education perpetuate high adolescent birth rates
    • Progress in expanding the use of contraceptives by women has slowed & use of contraception is lowest among the poorest women and those with no education