China's Ambassador to TL, Xiao Jianguo, with Foreign Affairs Minister Díonisio Babo Soares yesterday (Image/supplied)

DILI, 28 April 2020 (TATOLI) – Foreign support for Timor-Leste in its fight against Covid-19 has continued to flood in, this time from China, with another delivery of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) arriving in Dili.

The Citilink charter flight contained 82,000 face masks, 4,400 protective gowns, 4,440 face shields, 4,400 shoe covers, 5,000 medical gloves, 80 hand thermometers and 90 portable ventilators, according to China’s embassy.

China’s Ambassador to Timor-Leste, Xiao Jianguo, published an opinion piece yesterday, claiming China was a “steady driving force” behind global containment efforts.

“The virus is cruel, but the world is full of warm hearts, and China’s assistance, no matter [if] official or private, is on its way,” he wrote.

Workers unload China’s donated health supplies at Dili Airport yesterday (Image/António Gonçalves)

At a ceremony to mark the delivery of the goods, Interim Health Minister confirmed China has funded the charter flight, and had staff on site to disinfect the cargo before the flight departed.

He said the Timor-Leste government would conduct its own quality-assurance process on the supplies.

“That’s not to generalise that the products are not of good quality. [It is] the Ministry of Health’s responsibility when it distributes these materials,” he said.

Further support flagged

Mr Xiao, the Chinese Ambassador, said the embassy was also coordinating with the billionaire Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, to supply further donations such as test reagents. And China has offered help with “police capacity building” and food security, “if requested”, he wrote.

The support from China, where the virus was first detected in December before spreading to some three million people worldwide, earned warm praise from President Francisco Guterres Lú-Olo. But he spared most of his praise for other donors.

“I appreciate the cooperation from Australian Government that offer to do the Covid-19 test… we are continuing to use their resources to verify test result for patients who are suspected of Covid-19 from our National Laboratory,” he said, referring to Australia’s Royal Darwin Hospital, which has been verifying test results.

“Also at this time we want to thank our partnership country China, which has given us the medical equipment on March 4 and will provide more based on Timor-Leste’s needs,” he said.

TATOLI has reached out to a number of major donor countries  and organisations asking for details of their Covid-19 support. We will update this page as the responses come back.

China’s Ambassador to TL, Xiao Jianguo, with his Australian counterpart Peter Roberts on March 18 (Image/China Embassy TL)

Australia

Timor-Leste’s southern neighbour is also its largest aid donor, giving more than AUD $100 million (USD $61.6m) in 2019-20. Its coronavirus response has been the most generous – AUD $10 million (USD $6.2m) allocated so far.

As mentioned above, Australia has supported Timor by ‘verifying’ swabs tested for the novel coronavirus, through the Royal Darwin Hospital’s laboratory. The samples are also being flown to and from Darwin on Australian airline, Airnorth. The country’s Foreign Affairs department (DFAT) has funded training of local laboratory staff through the Darwin-based Menzies School of Health Research.

DFAT funding has allowed NGO Maluk Timor run training for more than 1,000 healthcare workers across every district of Timor-Leste.

Australia has also donated vital PPE including 6,600 face masks, 2000 isolation gowns, 1,500 gloves, 2,000 N95 masks, and 204 units of surgical scrub gel.

United States

USAID has allocated $1.1 million through the WHO and contractor JSI for “training and technical support” to help Timor-Leste with Covid-19, the embassy said.

“The funding will help the government prepare laboratory systems, activate case-finding and event-based surveillance, support technical experts for response and preparedness, risk communication, infection prevention and control, and more,” the embassy said in a statement.

The World Health Organisation

The WHO chipped in an additional $500,000 to the United States’ contribution. And the organisation has been instrumental in facilitating Timor’s response to Covid-19, as its regular situation reports detail.

The WHO provided PPE for health workers and emergency responders, including 20,000 gloves, 32,000 face masks/respirators, 1,000 gowns and 500 goggles.

But crucially, the WHO donated testing kits and reagents to the Ministry of Health in February. The kits are sufficient to test 1,000 people for the coronavirus. The WHO also donated technical equipment to the National Laboratory to help it become self-sufficient in its Covid testing.

The European Union

The EU announced this month $1 million from its Spotlight Initiative – or around a tenth of the program budget – will be directed towards preventing violence against women “in the context of Covid-19”

Andrew Jacobs, European Union Ambassador to Timor-Leste, said the funding would go towards technical assistance, public awareness campaigns and support for local civil society groups to prevent violence and abuse.

The EU said in a statement women are at much greater risk of domestic violence than before “because they are confined in an environment where the stress level is high.”

United Nations

In April, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) handed over a number of essential hospital supplies – patient beds and trolleys, infrared thermometers, wheelchairs, hand washing supplies and other items – to the Ministry of Health  to help with the national Covid-19 response.

And the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed an agreement with Timor-Leste government on April 1 to guarantee the supply of vital resources to help tackle coronavirus.

“Applaud for Timorese heroes”

The United Nations Resident Coordinator for Timor-Leste, Roy Trivedy, last week issued a joint statement with Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, urging everyone to show their support for frontline medical and emergency staff.

The pair urge the country to “Applaud for Timorese heroes” for five minutes, at 7pm every Tuesday.

“We are humbled by the hard work and dedication of all those on the front line. They’re doing an amazing job caring for us and our loved ones in incredibly difficult times,” the pair write.

President Lú-Olo echoed the sentiment, saying health workers and security personnel are “putting themselves at risk” to protect the health of the Timorese people.

“I extend a warm embrace to all of us in Timor-Leste. I am confidence that we will win this great challenge…to return to normal life,” he said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact the USD $1.1 million from the United States government was donated directly to the WHO for Timor-Leste’s Covid-19 response.

Read our original Tetum reports here: PR Lú Olo Agradese ba Governu Austrália, Xina no Japaun

Journalist: Cipriano Colo, Robert Baird

Editors: Robert Baird, Cancio Ximenes

Translation: Nelia Borges

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