Malnutrition Rate in Timor-Leste decreased by 6.6%

Mon. 18 of November of 2013, 19:56h

The Ministry of Health organized a press conference, on November 14th, at “Palácio das Cinzas”, to launch the “Preliminary results of the Study on Malnutrition Levels in Timor-Leste”.

The Study was implemented by the “South East Asian Ministry of Education Organization – Regional Centre for Food and Nutrition” – and took place between May and October 2013, through samples collected amongst 650 women and 650 children, and corresponds to an international standard.

The Ministry of Health also thanked health professionals who contributed strongly to the launching of this study, the continuous cooperation of UNICEF and the Australian Cooperation, for the technical and financial contribution, essential to the effectiveness of this Study.

With this study, it is possible to associate, in Timor-Leste, access to essential basic foods, as a determining factor for malnutrition amongst children under 5 years old, and their mothers, which include other diseases and the higher cost of basic essential foods enriched with proteins such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, fruits and rice, all essential to the children’s development.

In general, preliminary result points out significant improvements in the nutritional profile of Timorese children under 5 years old, with a special impact on acute malnutrition of children under 2 years old.

Malnutrition rate in the country decreased around 6.6%, from 44.7% in 2010 to 38.1% in 2013. Data shows a reduction of about 11% (from 49% in 2010 to 38% in 2013) in chronic malnutrition rate in children aged 0 to 23 months and about 6.7% of reduction in chronicle malnutrition rate in children of the same age, relatively to the results of the Demographic Health Study (from 18.6% in 2010 to 11.9% in 2013).

Specifically, the Study shows major improvements in malnutrition indexes in the different districts, except in Covalima, Bobonaro and Oecusse, where it is necessary to identify the major causes of this difference.

Despite the advances made over, malnutrition among children under 5 years of age remains a public health problem in Timor-Leste. In this regard, the Ministry of Health continues to work with other relevant sectors such as agriculture, commerce and industry in order to continue the development of a Strategic Plan to Fight Against Malnutrition in Timor-Leste, and whose focus requires multisectoral interventions, under the Declaration of Comoro 2010.

The nutrition program implemented by the Ministry of Health includes the provision of a basic integrated package consisting of community interventions such as nutrition screening, vitamin A supplementation, promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, treatment and nutritional rehabilitation of malnourished children, micronutrient supplementation, worming and growth monitoring.

In addition, mothers are involved in nutrition education activities, with practical demonstrations on how to prepare balanced meals and enriched on good hygiene practices and on health care for the most common diseases of childhood, rather interconnected to Integrated Attention of Neonatal and Childhood Illness (IANCI). It is an approach designed to comprehensively answer the major causes of child mortality, and promoting best practices in health care and nutrition for children within families.

This is the first study of this kind to be held in the country. The laboratory samples for micronutrient composition and iodine are currently being examined at the Regional Center for Food and Nutrition, located in Jakarta, and will subsequently be published between March and April 2014.

The final results of the study will effectively enable national awareness on food safety and the value of healthy nutrition, in addition to contributing to boosting human, material and financial resources needed to implement strategies to combat malnutrition in the country.