Child Survival and Development

In Timor-Leste, we work to ensure every child has access to nutrition, health and proper sanitation

UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin


Malnutrition, child mortality, poor maternal health and hygiene practises, and limited access to water and sanitation affect families across Timor-Leste.

In Timor-Leste, we work to ensure every child has access to nutrition, health and proper sanitation.

Child mortality and limited childhood development are some of Timor-Leste’s major challenges. One in 24 children will not live to see their fifth birthday. Malnutrition, poor sanitation and hygiene, and limited maternal health facilities hinder children’s growth.

Poor development in childhood sets children up for life: sapping potential and perpetuating poverty. 

About 70 per cent of Timor-Leste’s population lives in rural areas, and rural health care facilities are under-resourced: the staff lack training in maternal health and newborn care, and facilities often lack access to running water, reliable electricity, medicines and supplies. 

Poor hygiene and a lack of awareness contribute to childhood illness and under-nutrition at home. Nearly 42 percent of Timor-Leste’s population lives below the poverty line with rural areas being disproportionately poor. Most rural families are subsistence farmers, and rely on what they can produce for food and nutrition in oft-challenging environment.

Timor-Leste has one of the world’s highest rates of stunting: one of every two children under five are stunted. 

Why we need to make a change:

• One in two children in Timor-Leste under five years of age are stunted — one of the highest rates of stunting in the world.
• One in 24 children in Timor-Leste will not live to see their fifth birthday. 
• 38 per cent of children under five years of age are underweight.
• Half the women in Timor-Leste do not give birth in a health facility.
• 42 per cent of deaths in women aged between 15 and 49 years are due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth. 
• 50 per cent of rural health posts in Timor-Leste have no access to water.

@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/bsoares


A strong national health system can ensure survival, development and good health of all children in Timor-Leste. UNICEF works in partnership with the Ministry of Health to strengthen the health system both nationally and at the municipality level, with a strong focus on five priority municipalities: Ainaro, Covalima, Ermera, Oecusse and Viqueque. This partnership ensures quality healthcare reaches children, women, and families in some of the country’s remotest areas.

Capacity building of health care workers

UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to train health care workers and midwives to tackle maternal and newborn health issues, including malnutrition detection and management, management of diarrhoea and pneumonia cases and the safe delivery of babies. We support the Ministry to improve information management and evidence-based decision-making for maternal, newborn and child health interventions. 

Reaching communities with nutrition needs

UNICEF provides equipment, supplies, training and infrastructure to deliver essential nutritional information, counselling, and support to under-five children, mothers, and adolescent girls. 

Community-led health action

Low awareness prevents families from accessing health care. UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health by establishing volunteer-run Mother Support Groups in communities, which share information effectively and connect with service providers to improve costs for use.

Water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH)

Poor water, hygiene and sanitation practises spread diseases like diarrhoea, which are strongly linked to chronic malnutrition. UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health to provide access to clean water and basic sanitation through community-managed water and sanitation systems. 

The Ministry of Health has set an ambitious but achievable goal of declaring all of Timor-Leste’s 13 municipalities free from open defecation by 2020. With UNICEF’s support, over 170 communities and a municipality comprising 21,000 households have been declared open-defecation free.  

UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin
Delfina Florentina is on her way to check her baby’s health

Policy development

UNICEF has supported the Ministry of Health in developing a National Nutrition Strategy and the community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition Policy. We have provided technical assistance to the Government of Timor-Leste in the development and dissemination of a National Basic Sanitation Policy and WASH Sector Coordination Guidelines.

Partnership and strategy development

UNICEF works to strengthen partnerships, coordination and management to support the implementation of nationally-defined nutrition, child health, water, sanitation and hygiene-related strategies. 

UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/bsoares