September 2004, Volume 10 No. 2

ARTICLE 1

Maternal and Child Nutrition in Timor Leste1

Carlos Tilman
Director of Health Service Delivery, Ministry of Health, Democratic Republic of Timor Leste

INTRODUCTION
Timor-Leste is a small, post-crisis country with a population of about 850,000, of which in 2001, more than 40% were below 15 years of age. Average life expectancy is 57 years. 85% of the population live in rural areas. 40% of the population 15 years or older cannot read or write. 70% do not have electricity.

The people of Timor Leste have experienced harsh and difficult conditions as a result of colonial and occupational rule, which has greatly contributed to today’s poor nutritional status. The country is one of the poorest in the region, with not only low income but also poor performance on social indicators such as education, literacy and health.

Despite the efforts and achievements witnessed during the first two years of reconstruction, most sectors are still facing major challenges in running their programs effectively. The overriding burden of poverty, with its accompanying variables of poor water and environmental sanitation, nutrition and housing has significant repercussions on the health of the community. Post-independence Timor Leste faces these problems with optimism but recognises the difficulties ahead.

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