Timor-Leste hosts a high-level forum on child stunting, taking an additional step towards achieving the country’s national nutrition targets
As part of the national strategy to end malnutrition by 2030, the Government of Timor-Leste hosted earlier this month the high-level forum “Consolidating investments to address stunting for children under five".
The forum, organised by the national Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement Secretariat and supported by the World Bank, was an opportunity for Timor-Leste to reflect on the country’s achievements and challenges in its fight against stunting and strengthen commitments across sectors to implement the Sustainable Development Goal 2 “Zero Hunger” Consolidated National Action Plan for Nutrition and Food Security (SDG2 CNAP-NFS). It was attended by delegates from the President’s office, Ministers (or their delegates) from seven line ministries, and members of civil society.
According to the World Bank, malnutrition is the single greatest contributor to premature death and disability in Timor-Leste and presents an unparalleled development challenge. One in two children under five in Timor-Leste years is stunted — one of the highest rates of stunting in the world.
Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, tropical cyclone Seroja, which severely hit the country in 2021, and the rising costs of food and other necessities due to the war in Ukraine all contribute to increasing the burden of stunting and of the other forms of malnutrition in the country.
Against this backdrop, Timor-Leste continues to take concrete steps to improve nutrition. The country joined the SUN Movement in 2020, and more recently, the government allocated an additional budget of USD 10 million to support the new National Health Sector Nutrition Strategic Plan. Efforts are underway to secure funding USD 25 million for the newly reformed cash transfer program, which targets the first 1000 days - a critical window that can determine a child’s destiny.
Proper nutrition during this period provides the essential building blocks for brain development, healthy growth and a strong immune system.
Opening the event and representing the Honorable Prime Minster, Minister Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhães, stressed the need to strengthen investments not only in food security programmes such as the basic food basket, but also in concerted and multi-sectoral action for nutrition security.
Roy Trivedy, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Chair of the SUN Multistakeholder Partners Coordination Platform in Timor-Leste, said: "We have to defeat the twin scourge of stunting and malnutrition. It is vital to focus on the ‘'what’' and the ‘'how’..' In my view, there are three key priorities: government ownership; multi-sectoral and multi-partner response; and investment, including appropriate finance, human resources, and knowledge and expertise”.
This meeting was also an opportunity to learn from successful approaches at the global level. During the event, experts shared lessons from international experience in implementing SDG2, including experiences from Indonesia, Senegal, and Peru.