humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor and officially known as The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a sovereign state made up of a small cluster of islands in maritime Southeast Asia. After gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Timor-Leste struggled through a quarter of a century under occupation, mass conflict and United Nations transition before finally being granted full independence in 2002.

As a result of the struggle Timor-Leste faced while gaining independence, the country was left with little infrastructure, an unstable economy and widespread poverty. Due to the country’s high instability, Timor-Leste is one of the most malnourished countries in the world. This results in a lack of food security, lack of hygiene and sanitation and an increase in poverty.

Despite receiving an abundance of humanitarian and transition relief since gaining its independence in 2002, Timor-Leste is still considered one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. However, in the past five years, there has been a resurgence in the success of humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste. The main donor to Timor-Leste is the nation of Australia.

In 2014, the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) began sending regular humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste. HART is a small aid organization originally founded by the United Kingdom but has since branched out into Australia and the United States. The aid organization focuses on working with communities in conflict zones, post-war zones or areas were people are exploited for cultural or political reasons.

On World Food Day 2014, HART released a detailed briefing on malnutrition and its consequences in Timor-Leste, such as high infant and child mortality rates. Shortly after releasing this briefing, HART worked with its partner, HAIM Health, to create programs and teaching centers to better educate the Timorese on proper nutrition. Programs focus on understanding nutrition, a balanced diet, preparing and cooking food and healthy sanitation practices. HAIM Health also follows up with the families enrolled in its education programs and has an 80 percent success rate of children gaining or sustaining weight.

Humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste does not stop with HART and HAIM Health. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of the Australian government signed the East Timor Strategic Planning Agreement for Development in 2011, which establishes a shared vision of economic stability and growth between Australia and Timor-Leste. Since the signing of this agreement, Timor-Leste has seen many improvements in its development and further success toward a stable economy. In 2017-18 alone, Australia is expected to give approximately $96 million in humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste.

Thanks to Australia’s humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste, the Timorese have already seen positive results, including more than 40,000 people being provided the education and skill set needed to join the growing workforce. Also, over 21 thousand people now have access to clean water and hygiene programs and over 90 percent of primary schools now have a new and innovative curriculum, geared toward giving the students the skills they need to succeed.

Despite these improvements from humanitarian aid to Timor-Leste, the country still has a lot of room for improvement. The poverty rate in 2014 was 41.8 percent, which is still very high. With this groundwork laid, the Timorese will be able to build a brighter and more stable future.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

women’s empowerment in Timor-LesteWomen’s empowerment in Timor-Leste has been a serious agenda since the nation gained independence from Indonesian occupation in 2002. The occupation left 70 percent of the nation’s infrastructure in shambles and most of its inhabitants displaced.

The small island suffers from one of the highest poverty rates in Asia as well as high levels of malnutrition. Women in Timor-Leste face challenges including poverty, gender-based violence and a lack of opportunities to be seen as community leaders.

The country’s government, as well as outside groups, is working to make sure that these issues are addressed. It is imperative that women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste is a top priority as the country seeks to provide a better future for all its inhabitants.

When Timor-Leste became an independent nation, a Gender and Constitution Working Group was formed with support from U.N. Women. This group was tasked with making sure that gender equality and women’s empowerment would be an integral part of Timor-Leste’s new constitution.

Because of the Gender and Constitution Working Group’s efforts, gender equality is included in Timor-Leste’s constitution, as well as a provision declaring that all citizens must be given equal opportunity in the social and political sphere. Due in no small part to these policies, Timor-Leste now has the largest percentage of women in political positions in the Asia Pacific Region.

A report by Mercy Corps found that increasing women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste helped to reduce childhood malnutrition and improve children’s health. Mercy Corps reported that when women have control over household finances, they are more likely to use funds to benefit themselves and their children. Similarly, when women have increased decision-making power they are more likely to make an expedient decision to get a sick child the care they need.

Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) is another organization that supports women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste. According to AVID senior program officer Alita Verdial, the nation’s “patriarchal society means that women do not have sufficient respect and resources to allow them to make their own decisions.” The organization is combatting these problems by providing volunteers to support local workers in areas such as human rights, education and economic empowerment.

Timor-Leste is a young country which faces many challenges. Women in the country do not yet have equal opportunity in the social, economic or political spheres. But key policies have been implemented to make sure women have equal protection under the law, and international programs are working to support the country’s women.

If Timor-Leste’s government and humanitarian organizations can continue to make women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste a priority, there is hope that the country will have a freer and more equitable future.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

development projects in Timor-LesteTimor-Leste is a small country home to 1.29 million people on the eastern part of the island of Timor, shared with Indonesia. After 400 years under Portuguese rule, the country gained independence in 1975, only to be invaded by Indonesia nine days later. Over 150,000 Timorese died during 24 years of Indonesian occupation until a U.N.-backed referendum in 1999 led to independence in 2002. Fifteen years later, the United Nations missions have ended and the country is aiming to stand on its own two feet. These are five development projects in Timor-Leste:

  1. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Avansa Agrikultura (Forward Agriculture) project: Partnering with businesses in the private sector and with three government ministries including the Agriculture Ministry, USAID is promoting climate-friendly agricultural practices to increase food production and income in five municipalities across the country, including the capital. The $19.2 million project supports women’s empowerment and agricultural development projects in Timor-Leste, seeking to improve nutrition in Dili and beyond.
  2. The World Bank’s Sustainable Agricultural Productivity Improvement project: The World Bank’s agricultural project targets smallholders in Timor-Leste’s agricultural industry, encouraging the formation of community-based development plans. The World Bank is committing $21 million to development projects in Timor-Leste in partnership with the Agriculture Ministry to promote sustainable technologies in watershed agriculture.
  3. The World Bank’s Road Climate Resilience project: Coffee is one of Timor-Leste’s most well-known and important exports, popularizing the country’s name overseas and supporting development projects in Timor-Leste itself. As climate change begins to threaten small island nations, the World Bank is investing $20 million in a project to build climate-resilient roads and infrastructure in Timor-Leste’s coffee-producing regions, including in the corridor between Dili and the southwestern town of Ainaro.
  4. The Asian Development Bank’s Technical Assistance Special Fund: Through its Technical Assistance Special Fund, the Asian Development Bank is providing grants to help Timorese youth enter the country’s lucrative coffee industry. A $225,000 grant from the fund will contribute to a plan to develop the country’s coffee industry and create more jobs for local youth, collaborating with the Agriculture Ministry and the Timor-Leste Coffee Association to establish development projects in Timor-Leste.
  5. The World Bank’s Community Empowerment and Local Governance Project: Beyond agriculture, the backbone of the Timorese economy, foreign donors have been supporting development projects in Timor-Leste that seek to improve local governance and institutions. Between 2002 and 2005, in the first years of Timor-Leste’s independence, the World Bank committed $23 million to build responsive institutions that helped reduce poverty and support current initiatives for sustainable growth and economic development.

With these five development projects in Timor-Leste, the nation will be closer to a sustained and shared prosperity for all its people.

– Giacomo Tognini

Photo: Flickr

Preschool in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste is a lesser-known nation, one that happens to be the third youngest internationally recognized country in the world. Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) is a southeast Asian nation that occupies half of the island Timor and was once a part of the greater Timor, which gained independence from Portugal in 1975 and independence from Indonesia in 2002.

The path to independence was tumultuous, resulting in an impoverished community in dire need of reform. The recently sworn-in president of the country, Francisco Guterres, is continuing the work of his predecessors to diversify the small country’s economy.

While engagement with nearby Australia, particularly in maritime industries, is significant and crucial, another method that Timor-Leste is using to improve the lives of its citizens is education, specifically preschool.

As Vivian Maidaborn of Stuff.Co, a New Zealand news outlet, notes, “Every country’s future is in the hands of its children. In the case of Timor-Leste – a young nation stepping out from under the dark shadow of conflict – this statement is true indeed.”

Preschool in Timor-Leste is being promoted through UNICEF, who has partnered with the Ministry of Education, Village Councils and parents to set up community preschools to help children get the best start in life.

Children in rural settings are less exposed to early learning, as there are few public preschools in Timor-Leste for them to access and be more successful in the long run.

With greater access to preschool in Timor-Leste, children are less likely to repeat grades in primary school. The 2016 Ministry of Education reports stated that this was an issue for the country, as 24 percent of students repeated the first grade.

Another element of Timor-Leste’s makeup that makes early education a cornerstone for development is the fact that its population is a young one. Half of the population is under 18 and one-third of the population is under eight years old.

The greatest interference in education in general and for early learning in the country is geography. Timor-Leste is a mountainous country with a lot of agriculture that is difficult for young children to walk through when schools are more than five minutes away, especially when the weather is unfavorable. UNICEF and other organizations teaming up with the government of the small and young nation are attempting to correct this problem, thus giving the majority of the children better chances to learn and learn more often.

Maidaborn continues with her aforementioned argument for preschool in Timor-Leste when stating “Now in this post-conflict era, a new generation of people in Timor-Leste have a chance to create a new country, a country without violence and where children can flourish. The very young kids represent the first hope in a long time of childhood unmarked by conflict.”

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Timor-LesteTimor-Leste is a Southeast Asian country home to about 1.1 million people. The country is currently in a transitional period, recovering from political instability that occurred from 2006 to 2007. Progress has been made: since Timor-Leste’s 2002 independence, infant and child mortality have decreased by 50 percent, gains have been made in health and education and state institutions and democratic processes have strengthened. However, poverty in Timor-Leste is still high, particularly in rural areas. Here are a couple of ways to help people in Timor-Leste during this crucial post-conflict period.

1. Support NGOs working for the people of Timor-Leste
Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) are working to advance social and economic causes. CARE Australia is working to decrease the country’s 35 percent literacy rate and they are also working to improve maternal health in under-resourced rural communities. Oxfam Australia is also working to lift rural communities out of poverty through efforts to improve food security, essential services and infrastructure development. Peace Fund Timor-Leste collaborates and funds NGOs that focus on peace-building activities in the youth development area. Using these organizations as examples, a great way to help the people of Timor-Leste is to research more organizations, evaluate their impact and donate or volunteer your time.

2. Call Congress
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is doing essential work in Timor-Leste. They’ve deployed USAID community police officers to 442 villages to contribute to post-independence stability. USAID is also working to improve the skills of the Ministry of Health staff in reproductive, maternal and newborn health; Timor-Leste still has the highest maternal and under five mortality rates in Southeast Asia. USAID also assists in increasing farm income and improving nutrition for rural households throughout the nation. USAID has been working in Timor-Leste since the early 1980s, with both the government and other development partners; in the fiscal year 2016, the agency spent about $14 million in Timor-Leste. As of now, the 2017 fiscal budget is still under debate and USAID may be at risk of receiving budget cuts. One way to help is to contact Congress and urge them to protect the international affairs budget, particularly for the country of Timor-Leste.

On average, post-conflict countries take between 15 and 30 years to transition into stability. Considering this, Timor-Leste has made excellent progress thus far; however, there is still work to be done. The people of Timor-Leste deserve to live in a resilient nation where economic stability, political rights and social welfare are guaranteed to its citizens.

Hannah Seitz

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Timor-Leste
Most nations balance violations and successes in achieving justice for females. Human rights in Timor-Leste are no exception to this.

For the country’s 2016/2017 report, Amnesty International highlighted a few key issues which are being dealt with by Timor-Leste. Among these brief descriptions, the topic of gender-based violence was very relevant.

The nongovernmental organization cited a statistic for the category that found that approximately 60 percent of women who had experience with a relationship (aged 15 to 49) reported violence—sexual or otherwise.

A 2016 human rights report included the same statistic and expanded upon this issue, emphasizing that slightly less than 15 percent of females experienced rape perpetrated by individuals who were not their significant others.

Furthermore, rates of domestic violence in the nation reportedly only fell behind assault for “commonly charged crimes in the criminal justice system.”

Issues for women in the country involve matters such as:

  • A lack of prosecutions and investigations regarding sexual-based violence.
  • Difficulties in the enforcement of legislation regarding domestic violence due to “cultural and institutional obstacles.”
  • Questionable classification for the level of the crime.
  • Poor acknowledgment of victims’ needs relating to their protection.

In spite of these hurdles, improvements are consistently made for the sake of women and their human rights in Timor-Leste.

The country’s legislation to combat domestic violence (mentioned above) receives praise despite impediments to its usage—seen as a method that enables individuals to feel comfortable going to law enforcement and reporting their experiences.

Amnesty International noted that the nation joined other countries in southeast Asia by taking on a National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security, spanning from 2016 to 2020.

Other successes for women in the country (according to the 2016 report) include:

  • More abuse-related cases being examined in the justice network.
  • Greater instances of incarceration for individuals guilty of domestic violence from the beginning of the year until August (about nine).
  • The Ministry of Social Solidarity’s operation in districts, each of which involved a “gender-based violence focal point to coordinate a referral network, a coordinator for the Bolsa de Mae (Mother’s Purse) support fund, and two additional staff who focused on children’s issues.”
  • Coordination with other organizations—in the face of shortages in personnel—enabled individuals to access nutrition, places to reside, funding and other forms of protection during times of need.

Although Timor-Leste must still address many issues relating to the disproportionate difficulties females face in its country, it continues to make improvements to the lives of those subjected to brutalities and violence.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

Refugees From Timor-LesteTimor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is a Southeast Asian country comprising the eastern portion of the island of Timor. Timor-Leste has a population of about 1,211,000. Here are 10 facts about refugees from Timor-Leste:

1. Once a Portuguese colony, Timor-Leste was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and endured years of political violence until 1999, when the overwhelming majority of Timorese people – 80 percent – voted for independence from Indonesia. In 2002, Timor-Leste became the first new sovereign nation of the century; it remains Asia’s newest – as well as one of its poorest – nations. The period between 1999 and 2002 in Timor-Leste was plagued with violence, as forces loyal to Indonesian rule fought with independence seekers. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Timor-Leste left the country during this time. Today, many refugees from Timor-Leste have returned home, but many remain in other Southeast Asian nations and other countries around the world.

2. Nearly a quarter of a million refugees from Timor-Leste fled the country following the violent independence referendum in August 1999. According to the World Bank, in 2015 there were only 20 refugees from Timor-Leste living in other countries.

3. Evidently, the official count of the number of refugees from Timor-Leste has sharply dropped over the last two odd decades. The greatest reductions happened between 1999 and 2003, when the number of Timorese people with refugee status in other countries fell from 162,472 refugees to 127 refugees, according to the World Bank’s count.

4. The reason the number of refugees from Timor-Leste has plummeted so significantly is that many Timorese have returned to their newly-independent homeland, and others have gained residency or non-refugee status in their respective host countries.

5. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the UN agency responsible for tracking and providing humanitarian assistance to refugees. UNHCR opened an office in Dili, the Timor-Leste capital, in 1999 during the political crisis regarding independence. The agency assisted hundreds of thousands of refugees from Timor-Leste and displaced persons within the country, providing medicine, resources and travel to the refugees. In 2012, the UNHCR closed its office in Dili, considering its campaign regarding refugees from Timor-Leste a success. The closure was marked by a public ceremony, in which former President of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, thanked the agency for its tremendous work during the young country’s humanitarian and political crisis.

6. The UN helped repatriate 220,000 refugees from Timor-Leste during its work with the country – the real reason that today’s official count of refugees from Timor-Leste is so low.

7. Former President José Ramos-Horta himself was a refugee from Timor-Leste. During the occupation of Timor-Leste by Indonesia from 1975 until 1999, Ramos-Horta was a strong proponent of Timorese independence, although he never took up arms himself. He presented the case for Timorese independence while living as a refugee in Australia and the U.S., and in the 1980s began a process of negotiations with Indonesia, culminating in his presentation of a peace plan to Indonesia in 1992. His peace plan included an agreement between Indonesia and Timor-Leste on humanitarian cooperation, and allowing international organizations like the UN to work in Timor-Leste. His work as a refugee from Timor-Leste and his peaceful advocacy for Timorese independence won him the Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with Timorese Bishop Carlos Belo.

8. Not all of the refugees from Timor-Leste fled the country of their own volition. Thousands were forcibly removed from the country by government and pro-Indonesian forces and pushed into Western Timor, controlled by Indonesia. This was done to quell the independence movement in Timor-Leste. Many of these refugees were also repatriated by the UN, but about 100,000 chose to remain in the Indonesian province of East Naru Tenggara following full Timorese independence in 2002.

9. The refugees from Timor-Leste in Indonesia received little to no assistance from the Indonesian government, but private groups, international agencies and religious organizations provided help. For example, Holy Spirit Sister Sesilia Ketut, an Indonesian nun, donated money to refugees to help them start weaving businesses and make a living while in Indonesia. Sister Sesilia started the Forum for Women and Children in 2000 to help more than 300 widows living in Indonesia who had lost their husbands in the fight for Timorese independence. She provided business training, helped the widows with their children and even personally helped repatriate more than 400 refugees from Timor-Leste.

10. Because of its own history regarding refugees, Timor-Leste has vowed to never stop helping asylum seekers who come to Timor-Leste fleeing conflicts around the world. Former President Ramos-Horta said, “We are always ready to live up to our responsibilities. That’s the best way to thank UNHCR and all the countries that all these years have assisted our refugees.” Although a small country where relatively few seek asylum, Timor-Leste has laws in place to process refugee requests and assist refugees from other countries.

David Mclellan

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Timor-Leste
One of the themes common to countries struggling with poverty is the ability of the population to have access to clean water and sanitation. The people of Timor-Leste are no different from the millions of others around the world who battle with this problem daily. Water quality in Timor-Leste is concerning, compounding many of the issues the country faces.

In Timor-Leste, the majority of freshwater comes from two sources, groundwater and surface water. Often abundant in areas, groundwater is largely underutilized in the country, whether down to a lack of finance, technology or other insurmountable problems. Surface water, on the other hand, is far easier to acquire, yet it also has a number of problems attached to it.

The issues associated with groundwater can be attributed to several factors. A lack of funding for the initial development of water supply presents a large obstacle. The unavailability of spare parts for maintenance is another issue, particularly in rural areas. A third problem is the lack of technical knowledge within the country to successfully implement such plans.

Those who gather water from the surface are often faced with a different set of problems. A recent WHO study into water quality in Timor-Leste showed that as much as 70% of water sources were contaminated with microbiological entities, often holding potential for spreading diseases such as typhoid and cholera. Contaminations such as this are partly the result of a lack of effective sewage systems, with much of the country’s waste being disposed of in rivers and fields.

The lack of access to clean water has created additional strain on the limited healthcare system in Timor-Leste. Respiratory illness is widespread, as are malaria and dengue fever, with water quality often cited as the problem. For young children, diarrhoeal diseases, the largest killer of those under five, are similarly common, often causing complications that can have long-term negative effects on the younger population.

Despite these problems, however, progress has been made with several organizations targeting the water problem in Timor-Leste as part of their global strategies. Water Aid has trained many Timorese in servicing water points, enabling expertise, which allows the people to become self-sufficient. Its efforts in recent years have enabled 2,672 people to access clean water.

In addition, the World Health Organisation has provided support for studies, in collaboration with other NGOs, governments and Timorese societies. They have also supported the training of the populous in water safety processes. Through the assistance of UNICEF and the European Union, more than 37,000 people across multiple districts were given access to clean water through the installation of new water supply systems. Training into the managing and maintenance of these systems was also provided, enabling autonomy for the people of these districts.

The problems facing Timor-Leste are no doubt difficult to overcome. A government target for 2020 will cost an estimated $40 million each year to attain. In spite of this cost, however, steps do appear to be being made to ensure water quality in Timor-Leste in future years.

Gavin Callander

Photo: Google

Causes of Poverty in Timor-Leste
After almost three decades of Indonesian occupation, Timor-Leste gained its independence in 2002. The widespread violence during the years of occupation has taken its toll, however, and, since independence, the nation has striven to rebuild. Despite these efforts, Timor-Leste remains one of the world’s poorest nations, with an estimated 42 percent of the population living in poverty. Before investigating methods by which this issue can be alleviated, it is important to understand the main causes of poverty in Timor-Leste.

  1. Much of Timor-Leste’s economic infrastructure became severely damaged during the years of Indonesian occupation. This has negatively impacted many of the country’s essential services, such as healthcare, agriculture and education. The lack of infrastructure has further exacerbated the country’s food insecurity. With many people reliant on harvested crops as their primary source of food, large amounts of these crops have been improperly allocated or are traded on the black market, compounding the issue of hunger.
  2. Timor-Leste faces challenges from its surrounding geography. The country’s uneven terrain makes both farming and water-gathering difficult, with only 30 percent of arable land currently used in farming. Around 70 percent of the nation’s population lives in rural areas and are reliant on agriculture as their primary food source. However, they are faced with the challenges of tackling the wet and dry seasons. Natural disasters also make this difficult, with floods and droughts the cause of large losses. As a result, many families who are reliant on farming are only able to produce enough food for eight months of the year.
  3. Food shortages contribute to a large number of illnesses and diseases in Timor-Leste. Malnutrition is widespread, and proper health care is hard to come by, particularly for those in rural areas. Maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world, and 45 out of every 1,000 children are expected to die before their first birthday. Of those who survive, many are stunted due to poor nutrition.
  4. Water and sanitation also create problems for health care. Of all Timorese, 300,000 do not have access to clean water, with large numbers of the population using public taps and unprotected springs to get the water they need. Additionally, 700,000 people are without adequate sanitation. The lack of these basic facilities enables disease to spread, resulting in unnecessary deaths, particularly of young children.
  5. Education attainment levels in Timor-Leste are low, with a lack of literacy among the population being particularly problematic. Prior to independence, many of the country’s schools were destroyed and teachers were in short supply. A 2015 UNESCO report found numerous challenges facing the education system. Dropout and attendance rates, particularly those of girls, is one of the key issues the country is facing.
  6. One of the primary reasons education is a major cause of poverty in Timor-Leste is the direct impact it has on employment. While more than three-quarters of Timor-Leste’s workers are employed within the primary sector, employment outside of this area is limited. The country’s educational issues prevent the development of a skilled workforce, which hinders the ability of the government to function effectively. This skill gap is particularly problematic for Timorese youths, where educational inadequacies have led to a 40 percent unemployment level. Further compounding this issue is the lack of job creation outside of government, with the private sector only able to create an estimated 400 jobs per annum.
  7. While Timor-Leste receives foreign aid from a multitude of sources, questions have been raised as to whether aid has delivered any observable results. Policies of donors may not necessarily be in line with what is best for the country, particularly when focused on the public versus private sector. Despite this, a recent government report shows that critical areas of health, agriculture and education are receiving significant investment through foreign aid. As some of the primary causes of poverty in Timor-Leste, further investment in these areas may enable at least a small alleviation of the poverty facing the country.

As a young nation with limited resources, assistance from the developed world is critical to progress in Timor-Leste. Increased foreign aid, focused on the primary causes of poverty in the country, will be a strong starting point to enabling a stable economic future for Timor-Leste.

Gavin Callander

Photo: Flickr


Since Timor-Leste gained independence in 2002, it has made significant improvements in economic and human development. At the same time, while hunger in Timor-Leste has decreased, rates of malnutrition and stunting are still the highest in Asia. The U.N. has provided assistance aimed at stabilizing the government since 2006.

  1. According to Oxfam Australia, 41 percent of people in Timor-Leste live on less than $1.25 a day. Timor-Leste ranks very poorly in GDP and GDP per capita, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. A weak economy and an unstable political environment have made it difficult for residents of Timor-Leste to escape extreme poverty and hunger.
  2. Timor-Leste is a small country with only 1.13 million inhabitants, of which 74 percent live in rural areas. Because residents often depend on local agriculture to supplement their diet, the high instances of drought, flooding and cyclones in Timor-Leste lead to food insecurity.
  3. Persistent food insecurity and hunger in Timor-Leste have resulted in high rates of malnutrition among Timorese youth and adults. In fact, UNICEF reports that 58.1 percent of the population suffers from moderate and severe stunting, affecting the growth of many children and young adults.
  4. Life expectancy for the Timorese population is about 69 years, up from about 61 years in 2002. This increase is largely attributable to reductions in poverty through foreign aid that has led to an increase in the availability of food.
  5. In 2014, Timor-Leste became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to adopt the U.N.’s Zero Hunger Challenge. The program aims to eliminate food insecurity and childhood stunting by improving food infrastructure, increasing the productivity and income of small farm-owners, and lessening food waste.
  6.  Since 1999, the World Food Program has provided supplemental nutrition for the most vulnerable Timorese and worked to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates. Eventually, the U.N. hopes to turn the supplementary feeding program over to the government of Timor-Leste.

A recent report by the World Bank indicates that Timor-Leste has made significant strides in reducing poverty and projects that the economy will rebound with high growth rates in the coming years. As more Timorese escape poverty, continued foreign aid will be key to sustaining development and reducing hunger in Timor-Leste.

Yosef Gross

Photo: Flickr