Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2020 preliminary results: steady progress made, yet challenges remain

27 November 2020
Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2020 preliminary results: steady progress made, yet challenges remain
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2020/Monemnasi

DILI, Timor-Leste, 27 November 2020: Preliminary results from the Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2020 show declining trends of undernutrition among children aged 0-59 months compared to the previous survey conducted in 2013, the Ministry of Health announced today. 

The survey also shows progress in a number of other indicators. Exclusive breast-feeding rates of infants (less than 6 months old) was at 62 per cent, up by 10 per cent; stunting among children 0-59 months declined from 50.2 per cent to 47.1 per cent; wasting dropped from 11 per cent to 8.6 per cent while underweight (below average weight for age) reduced from 37.7 per cent to 32.1 per cent for children 0-59 months. In addition, maternal under-nutrition with the prevalence of maternal thinness fell from 27 per cent to 25 per cent. The full immunisation coverage of children for the first year has also increased 46 per cent to 74.3 per cent.

“We are extremely pleased with the progress made for children and mothers in Timor-Leste. The results of the survey show that the whole of society approach adopted, from government investments and provision of services, to positive behaviour change, are helping Timor-Leste make progress,” said H.E. Dr. Odete Maria Freitas Belo, Timor-Leste’s Minister of Health.

The preliminary results of the survey were announced at a ceremony held at the Palacio das Cinzas (Ministry of Health) by Dr. Odete Maria Freitas Belo. Also present at the ceremony were Mr. Andrew Jacobs, Ambassador of the European Union to Timor-Leste; Ms. Valérie Taton, UNICEF Timor-Leste Representative; Mr. Dageng Liu, Country Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Timor-Leste; Mr. Sikhyon Kim, Timor-Leste Country Director of KOICA; Paula Lopez Da Cruz, Assistant Representative of Programme FAO and members of the Nutrition Working Group.

The Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2020 was conducted from June to September 2020. Information for the survey was collected from more than 74,000 people from 12,880 households across all municipalities. More than 11,200 children below five years were assessed as part of the survey. 

Despite improvements, the survey also showed that the prevalence of stunting in children aged 0–59 months remains high, classified as a ‘very high’ public health problem based on World Health Organization (WHO) 2018 criteria. The prevalence of wasting at 8.6 per cent is considered a ‘serious’ public health problem. The findings also revealed that stunting was significantly higher among male children than female children, children in lower wealth quintiles, and those living in rural areas. Stunting was higher in children whose mothers/caregivers had no education; who did not meet the minimum meal frequency; experienced fever in the past two weeks; and had no access to an improved drinking water source. 

The findings of the survey will help the Ministry of Health and partners to plan and improve programming that benefits the nutrition and health status of mothers and children across Timor-Leste.

“There are also some trends we need to tackle immediately, as well as in the medium to long-term. For the future of our mothers, children and Timor-Leste, it is essential that we re-double efforts to accelerate progress to ensure every child and mother receives the right nutrition,” said Health Minister Belo.

“We would also like to thank all of our generous donors and partners for the financial and technical support to achieving the positive results we announced today,” she added. 

“The EU is honoured to have supported the 2020 Food and Nutrition Survey, since, it is always fundamental to monitor and evaluate progresses, successes and challenges for informed decision-making,” said Mr. Andrew Jacobs, EU Ambassador in Timor-Leste. I have to congratulate Timor-Leste, and the Ministry of Health, for carrying out this excellent exercise. Let me congratulate especially the survey enumerators and the MoH, UNICEF and WFP field and technical personnel that with the support of local and central authorities have made possible the quality implementation of the 2020 Food and Nutrition Survey. This is a sign of commitment and dedication since in addition to the general challenges, it took place during the difficult time of the Covid19 crisis. it will help to improve the nutrition of children and mothers.”

“UNICEF is extremely pleased to be able to support the Ministry of Health to carry out this essential piece of work,” said Ms. Taton. “Malnutrition is a hidden emergency that affects too many children. If we do not know the scope of the problem, and don’t address it early enough in a child’s life, it can have a lasting, devastating impact. We must avoid this at all costs, so children can fulfil their potential and secure a thriving, sustainable future for Timor-Leste.”

WFP Representative to Timor-Leste, Mr. Dageng Liu expressed, “The results from this survey give us an up- to- date picture of the nutritional situations of women and children under 5 years old and the nutritional effect of our common programs on the improvement of their nutrition status.”

The Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2020 was conducted by the Ministry of Health with financial and technical support from the European Union, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Nutrition Working Group.

For more information, please contact:
Ministry of Health

Dr. Olinda Dos Reis Albino, head of nutrition Departments, Ministry of Health elyreis87@gmail.com 

Media contacts

Tapuwa Loreen Mutseyekwa
Advocacy and Communication Specialist
UNICEF Timor-Leste
Tel: +67077231103
Tel: +670 331 1297, Extension: 1820
Antonio Gomes
Communication Officer (Tetum)
UNICEF Timor-Leste
Tel: +670 7723 2441
Tel: +670 331 1300, Extension: 1821


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