More on Timor-Leste

What are the current issues in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste is resource-rich but remains poorly developed. It ranks 120th out of 169 countries in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2010 Human Development Index. The World Bank’s 2008 Timor-Leste poverty survey showed that the population living below the national official poverty line of US$0.88 per capita per day grew from 36 percent in 2001 to 50 percent in 2007, with increases in both rural and urban areas.

Timor-Leste’s main economic sector is subsistence rain-fed agriculture, on which 80 percent of the country’s poor and 90 percent of the rural poor depend for their livelihood. Traditional staple foods are maize and cassava, but rice is replacing these as the preferred food. Major imported food items include rice, oil and noodles. The main risk of food shortages occurs during the October to March lean season, when food stocks run short and the new harvest is not yet available. Owing to inadequate road infrastructure, underdeveloped marketing systems, a lack of agricultural inputs and irrigation facilities, and considerable post-harvest losses, local food production is insufficient to meet national requirements. The 2007 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/WFP crop and food security assessment mission estimated that Timor-Leste needed to import roughly half of its cereal-equivalent consumption requirements. Floods, strong winds, drought and pest infestations occur yearly, resulting in loss of food production, which aggravates food insecurity and vulnerability.

Under-nutrition remains a major public health problem. Poor maternal and child health and nutrition results from many factors, including food taboos and dietary practices that lead to low consumption of nutritious food; unavailability of fortified nutritious foods; inadequate knowledge of good child feeding practices such as timely initiation of breastfeeding and appropriate complementary foods; high incidence of acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea; poor access to and uptake of health services; inadequate sanitation and hygiene practices; geographical isolation; and lack of adequate infrastructure.

The country has, however, made tremendous efforts in development and improved its ranking in the Human Development Index from 162nd (Least Developed Country) in 2009 to 120th (Medium Developed Country) in 2010. Since its independence in 2002, Timor-Leste’s social and economic policies have focused on alleviating poverty to address the immediate needs of the people, consolidating security and stability, and providing a foundation for nationhood through building institutions. This ongoing process of peace building and state building has been necessary to create a base from which the country can address people’s health and education needs and work towards the elimination of extreme poverty. In the last three years, Timor-Leste has experienced double-digit economic growth and a general improvement in people’s welfare.

Timor-Leste’s Strategic Development Plan forms an integrated package and a road-map of strategic policies to achieve the country’s vision of a sustainable and inclusive development which aligns with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

What the World Food Programme is doing in Timor-Leste

WFP has been present in Timor-Leste since 1999 with brief interruptions in 2001-2002 and 2004. The country office was re-established in 2004, under the recognition for a need for medium-to-longer term recovery programmes. Current WFP activities focus on improving the nutritional status of children under five and women, increasing school enrolment, attendance and retention, and improving food security for the poorest. A Country Programme, which will commence from in September 2011, will focus on nutrition support and capacity development for Government of Timor-Leste, including the planned handover of the programme to the Government by 2013.

WFP activities under current PRRO

  • Mother-and-Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN)

MCHN focuses on preventing malnutrition of children under two and improving the nutritional status of malnourished children between the ages of two and five, as well as malnourished pregnant and breast-feeding women. WFP provides blanket feeding to all children aged 6–23 months, and targeted feeding to moderately malnourished children aged 24–59 months and to malnourished mothers. The programme is being implemented in 12 out of 13 districts of Timor-Leste and reaches more than 50,000 people. Each person enrolled receives a monthly take-home ration of corn-soya blend (CSB), sugar, oil and iodized salt.

  • School Meals Programme

The school meals activity covers grades 1 to 9, reaching more than 270,000 children in more than 1,000 primary and pre-secondary schools nationwide. The school meal provides 426 kcal per child, from rice, beans, oil and salt prepared and served at the school. WFP’s monitoring and 2009 Mid-Term Evaluation showed a strong correlation between attendance and food availability in schools. The programme supports the Government’s Basic Education Act, espousing free education for all children, including a free school meal. WFP is phasing out the food provision for school feeding in August 2011 as the current operation comes to end. However, WFP will continue to assist the Government with capacity development for its national school feeding programme, including the improvement of school cooking facilities such as kitchen improvement and the construction and installation of energy-efficient stoves.

  • Food for Assets (FFA)

FFA activities contribute to increased agricultural potential and food security by employing food-insecure people from poor communities during the agricultural lean season. Under the current operation, more than 7,000 men and women from the most food-insecure districts have participated in FFA activities to date, focusing on enhancing agricultural production in rural areas through land clearance and reclamation, the rehabilitation of small-scale irrigation canals, construction or rehabilitation of feeder roads, improvement of community water ponds, and construction of schools using locally available material.

  • Conditional Cash Transfer

Timor-Leste is one of five countries where a WFP-assisted conditional cash-transfer pilot project is being introduced and tested under a trust fund. The project will reach 5,000 vulnerable rural households exposed to natural disasters and food insecurity. The project will contribute to community asset-building and disaster mitigation. All households in selected communities will participate and receive US$3 per day worked, in line with government programmes and policies.

  • WFP Special Operation

A WFP Special Operation which commenced in 2009, aims at building ministries’ capacity in overall supply chain and delivery management, to improve service delivery and increase coverage. WFP is the lead assistant to the Government’s national priority programme for food security by providing technical assistance in food security monitoring systems. Through the implementation of the operation, the capacity to deliver social and economic services in general will be improved through increased inter-ministerial coordination.

Featured Timor-Leste publications

  • Timor-Leste: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 500 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Timor-Leste? Visit the Timor-Leste publications archive.