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PRESS RELEASEMarch 21, 2024

Additional Investment of $55 Million Needed to Improve Child Nutrition in Timor-Leste, Report Finds

DILI, March 21, 2024 Timor-Leste can achieve its hunger and malnutrition reduction goals and significantly reduce childhood stunting by increasing its spending by $55 million in nutrition investments over the eight-year period 2023-2030, the World Bank said in a report. At 47 percent, the stunting rate in Timor-Leste is currently one of the highest in the world.

Increasing investment by an average of around $7 million per year, from the current level of roughly $49 million, would represent just 0.3 percent of the nation's GDP, yet would promise significant returns in terms of health and productivity, according to Indicative Costing of Timor-Leste’s Consolidated National Action Plan for Nutrition and Food Security (CNAP-NFS).

Increasing investment in maternal and child nutrition from conception to a child’s second birthday is vital for preventing child stunting and fostering brain development and would reduce childhood illness and lead to a healthier population. In addition, because stunting is associated with reduced learning and lost productivity in adulthood, investments in nutrition can improve Timor-Leste’s human capital, with long-term economic development dividends.

Timor-Leste’s CNAP-NFS is a national plan to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 2 – ending hunger and malnutrition -- by 2030. To support the operationalization of CNAP-NFS, the World Bank prepared cost estimates of the additional resources needed to scale up nutrition interventions from the current level.  The estimates consider activities across multiple sectors, including education (school meals), health, agriculture, public works (water), and industry (food fortification).

“Child stunting currently affects almost half of the children under five in Timor-Leste,” said Kyoko Okamura, World Bank Senior Nutrition Specialist. “In the seven years remaining to reach Timor-Leste’s stunting goals, there are concrete actions that can be taken. Scaling up nutrition services, such as Mother Support Groups to work closely with families and communities to improve nutrition practices, for example, is an effective way to reach communities and have a real impact on reducing stunting.”

The report emphasizes the urgency of adopting a fast-track approach for stunting reduction, recommending the prioritization of high-return sectoral interventions. Targeting a 2 to 3 percentage point annual decrease in stunting rates—a challenging but attainable goal—necessitates immediate action. Key to this strategy is the efficient allocation and utilization of resources towards impactful interventions that promise significant improvements in child nutrition.

“The compelling evidence in favor of nutrition-focused support mechanisms, particularly cash assistance programs, underscores their importance in combating stunting,” said Bernard Harborne, World Bank Country Representative for Timor-Leste. “It will be important for the Government to review how these programs can be used to effectively target and support vulnerable pregnant women and young children during the essential first 1,000 days of life.”



Ana Teresa Sequeira (Sandy),
Mark Felsenthal
+1 202-602-9673


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