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Rep. Jim McDermott Visits HAI in Timor-Leste

Posted: Mar 04, 2011 · Posted by: Marisa Harrison, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager

On February 25th, HAI received support from our Seattle Congressman, Representative Jim McDermott, albeit in an unusual location.

Congressman McDermott was part of a congressional delegation visiting Timor-Leste, including Representatives David Dreier (R, CA), David Price (D, NC), Lois Capps (D, CA), and Sam Farr (D, CA).  In a day spent visiting USAID-supported programs in health, local governance, and water and sanitation, the delegation spent time with HAI staff, learning about the support we provide to local health facilities and the tools and training given to community health workers to improve maternal and child health and use of health services. 

The delegation was welcomed at the Community Health Center in Manatuto Vila with the giving of tais, traditional Timorese weavings, by the Head of the District Health Services, the District Health Program Officer for Maternal and Child Health, the Head of the Community Health Center and other local leaders.

Waiting to present tais weavings to visitors (Photo: HAI/M. Harrison)

During a tour of the new maternity ward, which was built in September 2010 and has housed 55 births so far, our visitors asked insightful questions about the status of the health care system in Timor. They asked about whether women prefer to deliver at home or in a facility, what the barriers are to accessing antenatal care and birth assistance, and a surprising number of questions about condom use versus other family planning methods.  (Condoms, though widely available, are not yet commonly used in Timor-Leste.)  They also met a woman who had recently given birth and saw a brief snippet of our child spacing film "Espasu Oan."

The five Representatives made two home visits facilitated by local community health workers, one to a woman who was due to deliver that day and one to a woman who had given birth the week previously. Community health workers have been provided tools and training by HAI staff to conduct home visits to pregnant women. The "Mai Ita Koko," or "Come Let's Try," materials include a color-coordinated flip chart and poster that encourages specific care-seeking behaviors according to the trimester of pregnancy. The poster remains in the home to help remind the woman of her intended care goals. The two medical professionals, Representatives McDermott and Capps, were very engaged and asked questions of the health workers and woman as to their experiences and access to health care. 

Rep. McDermott visiting with a mother and her new baby, and seeing materials to help women seek care (Photo: HAI/M. Harrison)

Congressman McDermott was a vocal advocate for HAI's programs during his visit, and we were thrilled to have the chance to share our work in partnership with the Ministry of Health with these guests, as well as our local supporters and friends.

HAI staff members Juliao Soares (right) and Beth Elson with Congressman McDermott (Photo: HAI/M. Harrison)

Visiting a health facility (Photo: HAI/M. Harrison)

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