Invest in young people: Call for promoting healthy habits in schools during the launch of communication materials

29 January 2019
child and adolescents comm
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/Monemnasi

29 January 2019, DILI: 
A range of communication materials and learning aids on healthy living and care-seeking behaviours were launched today. These materials aim to help children to learn basic health nutrition and hygiene practices from childhood, Bonifacio Maucoli dos Reis, Vice Minister of Health, the Government of Timor-Leste and Cidália Lopez Nobre Mouzinho Guterres, the spouse of the President of Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste jointly launched these materials in the presence of the Ambassador Alexandre Leitão, Head of the European Union Delegation to Timor-Leste and Valerie Taton, UNICEF Representative.

Proper grooming and healthy personal habits can help reduce illness and protect students from infectious diseases. It’s evident that hand washing with soap before eating and after using the toilet could save lives. Learning personal hygiene and care-seeking behaviours are important for adolescents as they continue the practice in adulthood and encourage others.  

“Our health is in our hands. It is important to teach healthy behaviour and practice to our children while they are young such as health seeking, healthy eating, personal hygiene, etc. It will not only help them to grow as a healthy citizen, but also as health advocates and protect them from preventable diseases,” said Bonifacio Maucoli dos Reis, while talking about the importance of engagement with young people in promoting healthy behaviour.

“The future of our country lies with the children. The children of today will be adult of tomorrow who will lead the nation. Many of our children are suffering from undernutrition which have long term impact on their future. One of the reasons of undernutrition is lack of knowledge. I believe, with the help of teachers, children will be able to learn important lessons on health and hygiene practices by using these materials which will contribute to the overall health and development of our children,” said Cidália Lopez Nobre Mouzinho Guterres, Special guest, while praising the efforts of the Ministry of Health and Education along with partners for taking this important initiative.

Children and adolescent boys and girls were consulted to develop a broad range of colourful storybooks, comic books, activity books, board games and card games on various health, nutrition and hygiene practices. All these materials are culturally sensitive and age appropriate. Under this initiative, a total of 8000 sets of materials were produced and will be distributed to the school libraries across Timor-Leste through the Ministry of Education and Sports.  

"The European Union's support to Timor-Leste has come a long way over the last decade. Recently, the EU signed with the Government two financing agreements for a total amount of 18 million euros (around 20 million and 450 thousand dollars). Of this amount, 15 million euros (around 17 million dollars) will be dedicated to the PINTL Programme (Partnership to Improve Nutrition in Timor-Leste) which will support actions aimed at reducing the incidence of malnutrition in pregnant and lactating women, adolescents and children under 5 years of age,” said Alexander Leitão, Ambassador of the European Union to Timor-Leste.

“To make children become mindful adults tomorrow, we need to promote change with effective communication and a positive model to follow. These communication materials are important to reach the young with appropriate messages and raising their awareness about the essential care practices and healthy habits, as these are preconditions to ensure the health of every citizen,” he continued.

“Children learn best when they are young, through active learning and play. Developed by engaging young learners and adolescents, these workbooks, games and storybooks will help children to acquire new knowledge and skills, which will help them for the future, and as advocates of health, nutrition and hygiene practices in their families and communities” hoped Valeri Taton, UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste while talking at the event. “Also, these materials will equip adolescents with appropriate messages so that they could take an informed decision for their own health and well-being, and work as a change agent in their communities.”

As part of the initiative, more than 1,500 (one teacher per school) teachers engaged in School Health Programmes across 13 municipalities will receive training on how to use these materials by engaging students. All materials are accompanied by teacher’s guidelines to facilitate sessions with students.
This initiative is part of the joint MOH-EU-UNICEF project “Partnership for Improving Nutrition in Timor Leste” and continuation of the previous partnership programme on nutrition. It aims to engage and empower children and adolescent girls and boys; and to leverage their potential to become influencers of change in their families and communities.

Under this initiative, students from 16 schools participated in a quiz competition programme on nutrition and health issues. The best team received an award for their performance from the dignitaries.  

The Meeting was attended by the Director General of Education on behalf of the Vice Minister of Education Youth and Sport, other dignitaries and relevant stakeholders. It is expected that this activity will contribute to empower children and adolescent girls and boys as change agent in their communities. 

Since 2014, UNICEF Timor-Leste provided support to the Ministry of Health with the European Union funding to strengthen the capacity for nutrition programme planning, implementation, management and coordination; improving the access for women and children to quality nutrition services, and improving nutrition knowledge and behaviours for mothers and children.


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:
Marina Rini, NAO Communication officer

Antonio Gomes, Communication Officer, UNICEF Timor-Leste (Tetum queries)
Phone: +670-77232441 Email:
Arifa S. Sharmin, Chief, Communication Section, UNICEF Timor-Leste
Phone: +670-77231103 Email: (English queries)

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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