Moving to mobile outreach to ensure health care continued during the pandemic – Marie Stopes Timor-Leste

Marie Stopes Timor-Leste (MSTL) is committed to leaving no one behind.

When COVID-19 case numbers rose in the country, Timor-Leste experienced partial and full lockdowns. To control the spread of the virus, people were encouraged to stay at home and the cheap and popular ‘microlet’ public buses were not able to operate.

As an essential healthcare provider, Marie Stopes Timor-Leste was authorised to stay open by the government, but when lockdowns occurred, Marie Stopes Timor-Leste saw a significant decline in clients accessing services.

Marie Stopes Timor-Leste’s clients told the MSTL team that they needed to access their services but had no means of getting to the centre with the travel restrictions on public transport. The team acted swiftly, developing a plan to ensure clients could access the much-needed services.

Marie Stopes Timor-Leste mobilised four outreach teams – vehicles and staff – to provide mobile services via community health centres near where their clients lived. Almost 12,000 people were able to access services via these mobile teams in just six months.

Mária, a MSI midwife in Timor’s east who would normally provide services from the same government-run clinic each day, spoke of the challenges of suddenly going mobile for the first time, with MSI’s support.

“We were not used to moving from place to place so rapidly; packing, travelling and unpacking alone posed challenges, especially while maintaining the highest infection prevention standards.”

“But we knew this was all for our clients, and we had to do whatever it took,” she said.

The mobile teams were eventually able to visit multiple community health centres in a day, so they could reach the most number of clients in rural areas during the pandemic.