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Malaria control in Timor-Leste during a period of political instability: what lessons can be learned?

Joao S Martins14*, Anthony B Zwi1*, Nelson Martins12 and Paul M Kelly13

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

2 Ministry of Health, Dili, Timor-Leste

3 National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health, College of Medicine, Biology & Environment, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

4 Universidade da Paz, Manleuana, Dili, Timor-Leste

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Conflict and Health 2009, 3:11  doi:10.1186/1752-1505-3-11

Published: 16 December 2009



Malaria is a major global health problem, often exacerbated by political instability, conflict, and forced migration.


To examine the impact of political upheaval and population displacement in Timor-Leste (2006) on malaria in the country.


Case study approach drawing on both qualitative and quantitative methods including document reviews, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, site visits and analysis of routinely collected data.


The conflict had its most profound impact on Dili, the capital city, in which tens of thousands of people were displaced from their homes. The conflict interrupted routine malaria service programs and training, but did not lead to an increase in malaria incidence. Interventions covering treatment, insecticide treated nets (ITN) distribution, vector control, surveillance and health promotion were promptly organized for internally displaced people (IDPs) and routine health services were maintained. Vector control interventions were focused on IDP camps in the city rather than on the whole community. The crisis contributed to policy change with the introduction of Rapid Diagnostic Tests and artemether-lumefantrine for treatment.


Although the political crisis affected malaria programs there were no outbreaks of malaria. Emergency responses were quickly organized and beneficial long term changes in treatment and diagnosis were facilitated.