Bobonaro Municipality declared open defecation-free

Improved sanitation, improved health for thousands of children and families

27 June 2019
ODF declaration in Bobonaro2019
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Nazer

DILI, Timor-Leste, 28 June 2019 – Bobonaro becomes the fourth municipality in Timor-Leste declared open defecation-free (ODF) today, signalling another step toward in the country’s efforts to eradicate the practice of open defecation. 

The General Director of Ministry of Health Dr. Odete da Silva Viegas, Dermatologist, made the declaration in a public meeting held in Bobonaro Municipality attended by Denis Muhoza, Section Chief, Child Survival and Development Section of UNICEF Timor-Leste, Zeferino Soares dos Santos, President of Bobonaro Municipality, and other dignitaries.

More than 17,000 households with number of 97,000  people living in the municipality, now have access to toilets and handwashing facilities equipped with soap.

Bobonaro follows Ermera, Aileu and Liquisa municipalities in achieving open defecation-free status, an important advance in combatting one of the greatest public health challenges facing the country.

“I commend and thank the local authorities, communities and citizens of Bobonaro for their work in making their municipality open-defecation free,” said Dr. Odete da Silva Viegas “The Ministry of Health and the Government of Timor-Leste continue to be committed to the sustainability of this achievement, and to the drive to ensure that all of Timor-Leste is open defecation free by 2020.”

“It’s great to know that all households in Bobonaro have access to toilets and handwashing facilities, and that targeted behaviour campaigns are promoting positive health and hygiene practices in the community. I’m pleased to hear that, as a result, we are already seeing fewer instances of children with diarrhea at health clinics,” said Australian Ambassador, Peter Roberts. 

A practice that sees people go to fields, forests, bushes, open bodies of water or other open areas to defecate instead of using a toilet, open-defecation presents significant risks to the health of individuals and communities, with severe implications on vulnerable groups such as children under five. 

“This is a great milestone in Timor-Leste’s drive to become an open defecation-free country by 2020. It is an achievement that motivates communities in other municipalities that are progressing towards the same goal and securing hygienic and safe environments where children and their families can not only survive, but thrive,” said Scott Whoolery. “With progress such as this being made, we continue to move closer to realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.”  

In Bobonaro Municipality, a Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) process began in 2015, supported by UNICEF and the Australian Government’s Partnership for Human Development (PHD). Local implementing partners ETADeP (In Tetum Ema MaTA Dalan ba Progressu) and SERVBFUTILOS (in Tetum Servisu ba Futuru Timor-Leste) implemented Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) contributing to the Timor-Leste Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (in Tetum the Bee, Saneamentu no Ijene iha Komunidade or BESIK programme). BESIK aims to ensure that rural communities have sustainable and equitable access to and utilization of safe water and improved sanitation.

Today, all of the households in Bobonaro have access to toilets and handwashing facilities equipped with soap. Since the CLTS process began, incidences of children with intestinal complaints and reporting to health clinics with cases of diarrhea have declined as targeted behavior-change campaigns have helped to promote positive health and hygiene practices among individuals, families and communities.

In Timor-Leste, according to the Census 2015, 43 per cent of households do not have access to improved sanitation, and nearly one in every five Timorese still practice open defecation. 


Media enquiries:

Ministry of Health
José Moniz, Head of Environmental Department
Phone: +670-78258529 E-mail:

António Gomes, Communication Officer, UNICEF Timor-Leste (Tetum)
Phone: +670-7723 2441 Email:
Arifa S. Sharmin, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Timor-Leste (English)
Phone: +670-7723 1103 Email: 

Australian Embassy 
Carolyn Skorupa
Phone : 7723 1928 Email: 

Media contacts

Rukshan Ratnam
Communication Specialist (English)
UNICEF Timor-Leste
Tel: +67077231103
Tel: +670 331 1300, Extension: 1820
Antonio Gomes
Communication Officer (Tetum)
UNICEF Timor-Leste
Tel: +670 7723 2441
Tel: +670 331 1300, Extension: 1821


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