DILI, 10 june 2022 (TATOLI) – The President of the Republic, José Ramos Horta, in his speech at the Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting (TLDPM), proposed two practical steps to be considered by the Government of Timor-Leste to combat child nutrition in the country – Increase Nutrition Budget and Establish Nutrition Directorate in the Ministry of Health (MoH).
“Let me propose two practical steps to turn around the daily situation of Timorese children. First, the Government should allocate more budget to combat child malnutrition within the overall nutrition sector. Next, I also propose that MoH should consider establishing a Nutrition Directorate to move the nutrition agenda to the right level,” President Horta said in his speech at the Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting (TLDPM), in the Ministry of Finance, in Dili, today.
“I have also nominated a Senior Adviser on nutrition and food security to support this cause.”
Horta said with every second child malnourished, this being the third-highest child malnutrition rate in the world, saying it is simply unacceptable and such practical steps are required to address child malnutrition in Timor-Leste.
“We must ask ourselves how at the 20th anniversary of Independence, the country of this size with reasonably adequate financial resources has half of our children living below the poverty line (more than adults), the highest neonatal mortality in the region,” he said.
According to Horta, in its race to development, Timor-Leste still left many children and mothers behind: “Their care and needs from us, as the leaders and policymakers of this country, have been almost an afterthought when it comes to passing necessary legislations, and allocating adequate government budget for the 42% of this country’s population – our children.”
Horta pleaded to Government, Parliament, and Development Partners, Catholic Church and all other religious leaders, the private sector, civil society, and Villages Head to work together to have a Timor-Leste where no child dies at birth, and where every child is healthy, well-nourished, learning, and safe.
To achieve this vision, President Horta proposed Timor-Leste’s Government and Development Partners have a targeted focus on reducing child malnutrition, especially in the first 1000 days between a child’s conception to the second birthday: “As we all should know after a child turns two, it is almost impossible to reverse the effects of malnutrition. Breastfeeding has been declining alarmingly and this is due to ignorance and the unscrupulous promotion of formula milk.”
“I urge the Govt to urgently adopt the WHO Breast-Feeding Code that has been languishing in the Health Ministry for almost a decade.”
Horta explained why he has chosen child malnutrition as one of his top presidential priorities because almost half of the Timorese children are malnourished: “They are four times more likely to die, they have impaired brain development, they are more likely to keep getting sick due to weak immune system, they are less likely to complete their education, due to lower IQ and cognitive ability.”
“This means that if we do not do something today, the potential of half of our future generation will go to waste. We will not have the ‘human capital’ needed to develop this country, to take on jobs, to start businesses, and to contribute to the economic development of Timor-Leste,” he stressed.
Horta ended his speech by congratulating Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak for the launching of Timor-Leste’s “National Health Sector Nutrition Strategic Plan for 2022 – 2026”.
“Now the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Health should ensure that budget is allocated to the implementation of this Strategic Plan,” Hora concluded.
Journalist: Filomeno Martins
Editor: Nelia Borges