HART Australasia

Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust

Timor Leste

At first glance Timor Leste is a tropical paradise. But this first impression conceals desperately high levels of malnutrition.

Shortly after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Timor Leste was invaded by Indonesia. After over a quarter of a century of occupation and conflict, and three years of UN-administered transition, independence was finally granted in 2002. The country was born with little infrastructure, widespread unemployment, poverty and political instability.

Timor-Leste has the third highest ratio of malnourished children under-5 in the world, resulting from a complex mix of poverty, food insecurity, poor hygiene and sanitation, highly prevalent food taboos, low levels of education, particularly amongst women, underlying conditions such as worm infestation and chronic diarrhoea, and poor child feeding practices in some cases. The rate of malnutrition for under-5 year olds is 58%, and many women of child-bearing age are undernourished.