UNICEF Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste: SUN Movement Impact Story

August 23, 2023 - Last update: October 26, 2023

During a visit to Timor Leste in late 2022, former SUN Movement Coordinator Gerda Verburg helped encourage country stakeholders to commit to the SDG2 Consolidated National Action Plan for Nutrition and Food Security and ensure its costing and full implementation. She also encouraged Timor Leste to establish the nutrition coordination mechanism as a State entity within the Office of the Prime Minister and to enshrine into law the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. 

Filipe da Costa, SUN Focal Point in Timor Leste and Special Delegate for Nutrition and Food Security Coordination within the Country’s Prime Minister’s Office,  led on-the-ground efforts to improve the health of the nation's infants and mothers, while also protecting the environment from gas emissions resulting from formula production. 

One of the Coordinator's priorities during her visit was to encourage the establishment - by decree - of a nutrition coordination mechanism at the highest level to ensure that nutrition remains a priority even in case of any political party changes in government.

That led to the Government's creation of a "Unit of Mission to Combat Stunting (UNMICS)", by Decree-Law dated 22 December 2022, to combat the phenomenon of stunting in Timor-Leste. This body is responsible for drafting the National Plan to Combat Stunting, implementing the measures, informing the population on the causes and consequences of stunting, and mobilizing it to adopt preventive behaviour.

This also led to the establishment of the Timor-Leste Decree-law for regulating the marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in 2023, which regulates the marketing of infant formula while promoting breastfeeding for the benefit of the country’s mothers and children. With 65 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeeding, Timor Leste is getting closer to achieving its breastfeeding target of 70 per cent by 2026.

The importance of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. Babies who are fed nothing but breast milk from birth through their first six months of life get the best start. 

Over 800 000 child deaths and 20 000 mothers each year could be averted through universal breastfeeding, along with economic savings of US$300 billion, The Lancet reported in 2016.

Between 2015 and 2021, 48 per cent of infants worldwide were exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months, 10 percentage points higher than a decade earlier, and close to the WHA target of 50 per cent by 2025.

Though this shows that significant progress is possible and happening, the world is not on track to meet the 2030 target of at least 70 per cent of children exclusively breastfed for the first six months, the 2023 The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World said. 

Breastfeeding is cost effective and benefits not just mothers and children, but also entire economies. Every $1 invested in breastfeeding yields $35 in economic returns. 

The World Bank estimates that an investment of $4.70 per newborn is needed to reach the World Health Assembly’s (WHA) global target for exclusive breastfeeding.  

Check out the Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which tracks donor funding for breastfeeding. 


Advocacy Breastfeeding
South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific