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INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMS –HARMFUL CHILDBIRTH TRADITIONS IN TIMOR-LESTE

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Childbirth practices in Timor-Leste are held upon the belief that fire and certain liquid substances can clean the dirt away from the blood of the unborn babies and the mothers—seriously threatening the health of babies and their mothers, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Pregnant women will lie and sleep next to a fire for months with the belief that the fire’s heat will wash away all the dirt and impurities from the babies’ blood, Macu Guterres, coordinator for the National Breastfeeding Association, told the UNHCR.
According to Guterres, this practice can harm both the mother and the baby. The unborn child can develop asthma because the smoke will often make the breathing process harder.
This practice can be overwhelmingly popular in Timor-Leste since this country has one of the world’s fastest-growing populations—and each woman has an average of 6.5 children each, according to the UN World Population Prospects.
Another practice that usually harms the health of unborn babies is that births are attendant by traditional birth assistants, rather than certificated nurses and doctors, according to the UNHCR.
The Alola Foundation, which is a non-profit based in Timor-Lester, estimates that only 10 percent of all pregnant women receive skilled assistance when giving birth.
Affordability is one of the factors that decrease that probability of receiving appropriate medical assistance when giving birth. According to the United Nations Poverty-Environment Initiative (UNEP), around 42 percent of Timor-Leste’s population lives under the national poverty line of $0.55 per day.
In addition, as Timor-Leste’s population has increased drastically, social services have not raised to respond for the population’s needs, according to the United Nations Poverty-Environment Initiative. Many pregnant mothers have little opportunities to access state-run assistance, as investments in infrastructure, and social services are scarce. 
Under traditional birth practices, Dukuns, which are traditional healers, will often try to induce birth by placing rice and other substances in the mother’s birth canal. This is believed to lure the baby out of the mother, as reported by the Health Alliance International (HAI), a Washington-based non-government organization.
One more common belief is that the colostrun, the milk that mothers produce immediately after birth, will harm the baby if consumed. For this reason, often mothers give their babies a substance made with honey and water, which is believed to wash away all the dirt from the baby’s intestines and blood, as reported by the Alola Foundation.
Another factor why people rely on traditional medical procedures is that only 50 percent of adults are literate—and less than one-third of adults have some secondary education—declining the chances that people will be acquainted with modern clinical procedures, according to the United Nations Poverty-Environment Initiative (UNEP).

Around 80 percent of Timor-Leste’s population lives in rural areas, according to the United Nations Poverty-Environment Initiative (UNEP). The UNCHR reported that in certain rural areas of Timor-Leste, mothers drink hot water, and take showers with water in high temperatures after giving birth.
Rogerio Pedro Sam, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Mother of Perpetual Help Pharmacy and Clinic in Bidau, Dili, told the UNCHR that natives believe that the hot water will wash away all the dirt from their blood, but in many cases they will burn their own skin.

The UNCHR, in association with other international non-profits, have concentrated on reducing the mortality rate in Timor-Leste, as reported by IRIN, an UN-sponsored humanitarian news outlet.

 
In 2007, the infant mortality rate was around 77 per 1,000 births in Timor-Leste—which is considered particularly high for the region, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
However, since 2003, the infant mortality rate sunk to 44 deaths per 1,000 births.

 
According to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the infant mortality rate in Timor-Leste has decreased significantly. Yet, the 2009 CIA World Factbook reports that Timor-Leste still has a high infant mortality rate when compared with the surrounding countries.
http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/publisher,IRIN,,TMP,49e6ef2ec,0.html
 
http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=89821
 
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html
 
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2005/cr05247.pdf
 
http://www.unpei.org/programmes/country_profiles/timor-leste.asp

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