Government launches Unit of Mission to Combat Stunting

Fri. 10 of March of 2023, 17:21h

The Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, representing the Prime Minister and accompanied by the Vice-Minister of Health, Bonifácio Mau Coli dos Reis and by the Development Partners, officially launched the Unit of Mission to Combat Stunting (UNMICS), a government initiative to combat the phenomenon of stunting in Timor-Leste. The ceremony occurred on March 10th, 2023, at the Government Palace in Dili. 334983357_767327528326424_1603430532826545385_n

UNMICS was established by Decree-Law No. 91/2022, December 22nd, and will have as Executive Director Filipe da Costa, advisor to the Prime Minister for Food Security and Nutrition and Focal Point of the SUN Movement.

Stunting is a public health problem that occurs when children are exposed to inadequate nutrition in the early years of life, resulting in limited and compromised growth.

UNMICS will be responsible for drafting the National Plan to Combat Stunting, implementing the measures therein, informing and enlightening the population on the causes and consequences of stunting, mobilising the people to adopt preventive behaviour, and supporting activities to tackle and mitigate the problem.

UNMICS will coordinate with other relevant administrative bodies and services to develop an Action Plan to Combat Stunting in Timor-Leste and implement the measures in that plan. Establishing this unit is an important initiative by the government of Timor-Leste to combat stunting and promote the health and well-being of the country's children.

Minister Fidelis, at the opening of the event, stressed the importance of establishing this unit, “which is the initial phase of the long effort that the Government intends to follow to combat stunting and malnutrition in general”, together with other ongoing actions such as the “regulation of breast milk substitutes, improving the conditions of the Mothers Allowance program, increasing the value of school meals, the decisions to be discussed soon in the Council of Ministers on preschool education and the finalisation of the Decree-Law on food fortification, the investment in water and sanitation and the increase in the budget for this sector”.

The Minister also explained that the UNMICS aims to “improve concertation and coordination across ministerial lines and between them and Development Partners, as well as to strengthen the Government's efforts to combat stunting, because “47% of Timor-Leste's population suffers from stunting, especially the children”.

334972373_226472323113323_8518419844228051164_nThe Vice-Minister of Health, in his intervention, stated that “the issue of safe and nutritious food is not only the competence of the Ministry of Health but is interconnected with the various relevant institutions and ministries and all stakeholders related to food and nutrition”.

He also mentioned that “chronic malnutrition or stunting directly affects the physical growth and intellectual, cognitive, affective, and psychomotor development of children, which in the future will impact the nation's development.”

The Vice-Minister also stressed the importance of this Unit for “the coordination and mobilisation of all existing resources in Timor-Leste, both at the governmental institutions level, and the United Nations agencies, Development Partners, private sector, civil society, religious denominations, and the entire community linked to nutrition, food security, nutritious and healthy food level”.