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The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Representative in Timor-Leste, Pressia Arifín-Cabo, said the agency will mobilise resources to support the government establish the reasons for the high number of stillbirths or babies dying in the womb across health centres in the country, and how to prevent these moving forward.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Representative in Timor-Leste, Pressia Arifín-Cabo, said the agency will mobilise resources to support the government establish the reasons for the high number of stillbirths or babies dying in the womb across health centres in the country, and how to prevent these moving forward.

She considers this a serious problem that requires everyone’s urgent attention.

“We must know why there are so many women delivering stillbirths. For UNFPA this is an urgent issue, and not just the number of babies dying prematurely in the womb, but the reason why this is happening. Data shows most stillbirths occur during pregnancy, and the UNFPA will make efforts to determine the causes in Timor-Leste,” she said following a visit to the Centre for Emergency Obstetrics and Primary-Neonatal Care (KEmON-B), in Liquiça Municipality.

She added that quality antenatal care is very important to ensure pregnant women can detect early if there are complications during the pregnancy and to adequately manage any complications and prevent the premature death of the mother and the baby.

She said it is also important to recognise the role husbands have in providing adequate antenatal care in the first instance and to support their wives during the pregnancy and ensure the mother and the baby are safe.

Meanwhile, General Practitioner at KEmON-B Liquiçá, Doutór Manuel Moruk, said in 2022, they supported 633 women giving birth, with no reported deaths of the mothers, but 18 babies died during the pregnancy or at birth.

Of the 18 babies, 3 died during childbirth and the other 15 were stillborn, or died prior to childbirth in the womb.

“The causes may be because of inadequate antenatal care, no because the mother had an infection causing the baby to die in the womb,” he said.

He added they also referred 85 mothers to the National Hospital Guido Valadares (HNGV), in the capital Dili, due to complications including some needing blood transfusions and with high blood pressure and the intervention was needed to save the baby.

Specialist Medical Obstetrician, José António Gusmão, said babies die in their mother’s womb due to many factors, including abnormal circumstances, because of an infection such as syphilis, hepatitis, TBC, and other conditions such as high blood pressure, anaemia, that can also contribute to babies dying in the womb during pregnancy.

“Our current statistics show many pregnant women also suffer from infections including hepatitis, syphilis, tuberculosis, high blood pressure, and anemia. These are all contributing factors,” he said.

He added many Timorese pregnant women suffer from high blood pressure and are also undernourished so it is very important to escalate antenatal care so complications can be detected earlier and so that these can be adequately managed to prevent mother and baby deaths during pregnancy in the womb or at birth.