DILI, 23 october 2023 (TATOLI) – Member of National Parliament, Maria Angelina Sarmento from the People’s Liberation Party (PLP) called on the Government to make serious investments in key areas to address hunger in the country.
The call was made in response to the report of the 2023 Global Hunger Index (GHI) which showed that Timor-Leste ranked 112 on a list of 125 countries.
Timor-Leste ranks 112 out of 125 countries, scoring 29.9 based on rates of undernourishment, wasting, stunting, and child mortality.
With a score of 29.9, the level of hunger in Timor-Leste has been labeled “serious.”
GHI places Timor-Leste as the 14th hungriest country in the world, after Mozambique, Afghanistan, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Liberia Guinea Bissau, Chad, Niger, Lesotho, Congo, Yemen, Madagascar, and Central African Republic.
The ranking puts Timor-Leste as the hungriest country in the Southeast Asia region behind Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, and Singapore.
Each country’s GHI score is calculated based on a formula that combines four indicators that together capture the multidimensional nature of hunger: Undernourishment (the share of the population with insufficient caloric intake; Child stunting (the share of children under age five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition; Child wasting (the share of children under age five who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition) and Child mortality (the share of children who die before their fifth birthday, partly reflecting the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).
“We strongly request the Government to take serious action to address hunger in Timor-Leste,” said Sarmento, in Dili, today.
Previously, the President of the Republic Jose Ramos Horta also urged the government to tackle hunger and food insecurity in the country.
While questioning the GHI data, President Horta urged the government to take it as a lesson to examine why the highest number of hungry people in the world are in Timpor-Leste as well: “The data could be inadequate but let’s take it as a lesson for Timor-Leste to work in every possible way to reduce the rate of malnutrition and hunger in the country.”
One of the main drivers of hunger in Timor-Leste is food insecurity, as many households cannot afford to buy nutritious food.
According to the Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2020, the country has one of the highest prevalences of childhood stunting in the world. According to the report, 47% of Timorese children 0-59 months were stunted, 8.6% were wasted, and 32.4% were underweight.
Another cause of hunger in Timor-Leste is poverty. More than 40 percent of people are living in poverty, and this is the highest number in Southeast Asia.
According to the Timor-Leste Living Standards Survey which was conducted in 2014, the national poverty line, the proportion of Timorese living in poverty was 41.8 percent.
According to Asian Pacific Development, Diplomacy, and Defense Dialogue, two-thirds of Timor-Leste’s population live on less than US$2 per day, making life for many Timorese a struggle.
Many consider the GHI report as a wake-up call to the government to take the hunger issue seriously in order to make a serious investment in the agricultural sector to achieve the country’s goal of becoming a self-sufficient country.
The IX Constitutional Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, during the inauguration ceremony, pledged to make serious investments in the productive sector, especially the agricultural sector, in order to increase food production to combat hunger and malnutrition in the country.
Journalist: José Belarmino De Sá
Editor: Filomeno Martins