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EU-UNICEF-WFP expand support to Integrated Nutrition Project for children and women in Timor-Leste

DILI, Timor-Leste, 20 January 2017:  The European Union (EU) extends its support to the Government of Timor-Leste to strengthen the Integrated Nutrition Project in Timor-Leste. Under the agreement, the EU will provide a further contribution to the Ministry of Health of the Government of Timor-Leste through UNICEF Euro 1.32 million and 720,000 to WFP to reach vulnerable children and families with high impact nutrition interventions. This grant is in addition to the Euro 4.2 million to UNICEF and 3 million Euro to WFP earlier allocated in March 2014.

The additional funding will allow scaling up the implementation of the Integrated Nutrition Project, currently in Dili, Ermera, Bobonaro, Covalima, Special Administrative Region of Oecusse and Ainaro municipalities, to all 12 municipalities and Oecusse- Special Administrative Region during 2017, benefiting around 200,000 children under five, and 94,000 pregnant and lactating women. This will be achieved through capacity building of health staff for nutrition service delivery, provision of health facilities with equipment and supplies, and capacity building for nutrition related behaviour change in the communities. This was disclosed today in a brief joint meeting held at the conference room of the Ministry of Health for the “Ratification of additional contribution for the Integrated Nutrition Project in Timor-Leste through UNICEF & WFP to support the Ministry of Health”.

“Malnutrition is a national problem not a health problem alone, and in this regard the EU funding to UNICEF and WFP does complement the effort made by our health professionals in assessing and addressing malnutrition of children and pregnant women around the country. The nutritional status of children and adults in Timor-Leste remains significantly below acceptable world standards as per several studies conducted in Timor-Leste.  Adequate nutrition in the first year is essential for children’s physical and mental growth. Children who were malnourished as an infant often do not perform well at school”, said Dra. Ana Isabel Soares, Vice Minister of Health.

The EU-UNICEF-WFP supported Integrated Nutrition Project aims to reduce the burden of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies among children below 5 years old and women of reproductive age through improving the coverage of high impact nutrition interventions and strengthening the health system for nutrition service delivery to the communities.

The EU support to the Government of Timor-Leste and specifically to the Ministry of Health has come a long way during the last decade. The EU takes the pride in having effectively supported Government's efforts to build a democracy and improve the social and economic development in Timor-Leste. The European Union support is key to strengthen institutional and human resources capacity, aiming at improving the life and wellbeing of Timorese, especially the women and their children.

The EU fully recognises the Government of Timor-Leste important achievement in the nutrition sectors, where undernutrition is gradually diminishing, although still among the highest in Asia. Therefore representing a severe public health challenge. A lot remains to be done.  Timor-Leste Government strong political commitment through political declarations, national policies and sound nutrition strategies should be now translated into appropriate Government financial investments.

“Investing in Nutrition is central not only to promote the population wellbeing; but also: a) it promotes future growth of non-oil GDP; b) it enhances future human capacity of the country; and c) it reduces child morbidity and mortality and ill health of their mothers,” said Alexandre Leitão, the EU Ambassador in Timor Leste.  “According to Ministry of Health (MoH) estimates, malnutrition depresses Timor-Leste’s economy by US$ 41 million annually. This loss is equivalent to nearly the entire MoH budget and roughly 2% of the economic activity in the non-oil sector,” he continued. 

Since 2014, UNICEF and WFP have been providing support to the Ministry of Health with EU support to strengthen the capacity for nutrition programme planning, implementation, management and coordination; improving the access of women and children to quality nutrition services, and improving access to maternal, infant and young child health and nutrition behaviour change communication. 

“This valuable partnership is playing a significant role in reaching the most vulnerable children and women in Timor-Leste with essential support and is contributing substantially to improve the capacity of the government in the health sector to support nutrition interventions,” said Desiree Jongsma, UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste in her brief remarks at the event. “UNICEF is committed to providing, together with all partners involved, support to reach every child in Timor-Leste so that they have the opportunity not to only survive but also thrive into adulthood.”

WFP is supporting the people of Timor-Leste working with local NGO’s to spread the message of the importance of a nutritious diet, particularly in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life during the critical development of their brain and body.  “Working with local communities to explain the importance of a good diet for themselves and their children is critical in helping people to help themselves,” said Stephen Kearney, WFP Country Director.

With the additional 2.40 million Euro assistance from the EU, Community Health Clinics (CHC) in the additional seven municipalities will be staffed with 52 Public Health Technician Nutritionists, who will provide nutrition services and related counseling and monitoring. All health facilities in the ten additional municipalities will be provided with a set of nutrition equipment and supplies, such as scales and height boards for assessing nutritional status, and nutrition commodities for the treatment (therapeutic food) and prevention of malnutrition (micronutrient powders).  The same facilities will be provided with nutrition training (SNIP) towards strengthening the capacity of around 830 health staff for nutrition service delivery.

After completion of the project in December 2017, it is expected that the Health Sector will have improved capacity to more effectively reach all children and women including those who are living in the most remote areas and contribute to reducing malnutrition in Timor-Leste. The Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2013, found 50.2 percent of children under five stunted (too short for their age) due to chronic malnutrition, and 10.8 percent were found to be suffering from wasting, where a child’s weight is too low for their age.

For Further information, please contact:

Ministry of Health, Government of Timor-Leste:
Dr. Olinda dos Reis, Head of Nutrition Department, Ministry of Health
Phone: +670 7825 8546

European Union:
Johanes Don Bosco Mau, Programme Officer
EU Delegation to Timor-Leste
Phone: +670 331 1580, ext: 406

UNICEF:
Antonio Gomes, Communication Officer, UNICEF Timor-Leste (Tetum queries)
Phone: +670-7232441 Email: angomez@unicef.org
 
Arifa S. Sharmin, Chief, Communication Section, UNICEF Timor-Leste
Phone: +670-7231103 Email: assharmin@unicef.org (English queries)

WFP:
Marianne Kearney, Behaviour Change Communications Officer,
Tel +670-77265244  email: Marianne.kearmey@wfp.org

 

 
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