Timor-Leste: Health sector resilience and performance in a time of instability

Timor-Leste: Health sector resilience and performance in a time of instability

Health sector challenges in Timor-Leste during the civil conflict in 2006

This study documents the health sector response to the civil conflict and political violence in Timor-Leste during April and May 2006 and continuing into 2007. During this time around 15 per cent of the entire population were displaced. The research highlights the challenges facing the health sector and finds that the health system demonstrated resilience and was able to continue to offer key services to communities. No major disease outbreaks occurred during the crisis and specialised services were provided for groups at greatest risk. However, the study also reveals some weaknesses in relation to national disaster planning, information and surveillance systems, and the limitations and constraints affecting mid-level management within the health sector.

The paper offers several recommendations to the Ministry of Health, national governments, NGOs, UN agencies and donors to bolster the effectiveness and equity of responses to difficult circumstances. The experiences which unfolded in Timor-Leste raise a number of issues which are relevant for other countries. These include ensuring that whatever disaster planning has already taken place can be activated at short notice, ensuring a designated leader has been identified in the health sector, and rapidly invoking an agreed coordination structure to enable communication with all relevant actors including the NGO sector.

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