Humanitarian aid in favour of the people of Timor-Leste affected by acute malnutrition

Location of operation: EAST TIMOR

Amount of Decision: EUR 2,500,000

Decision reference number: ECHO/TMP/BUD/2005/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population:

1.1. - Rationale:

A late start of the rainy season in the last quarter of 2004 has affected the development of the 2004/2005 agricultural season preventing Timor-Leste from recovering from a deterioration of the food and nutritional security situation which had reached alarming proportions after a two year drought affected the country during 2002 and 2003. A Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping (VAM) mission of the World Food Programme (WFP) carried out in April 2005 found that some 350,000 people are food insecure (not being able to meet the minimum requirement of 2,100 Kcal by day) and that prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) at national level is still between 12 and 14 %. Other surveys (1) have reported that prevalence of global acute malnutrition reaches 19 %.

Global acute malnutrition is caused by several factors, the most important of which is the structural food shortages (rice, maize) that affect two thirds of the rural population due to the cyclical nature of food availability and which are particularly acute between November and February. Even though the local population has developed coping mechanisms to adapt to this situation under normal circumstances, successive poor harvest results since 2002 have depleted the coping capacity of the poorest sector of the population, which has subsequently become acutely malnourished. In addition to food shortages, other underlying causes of malnutrition are poor water and sanitation (50 % of the population does not have access to a safe water supply), insufficient crop diversification, poor nutritional practices and deficient health services. (2)

The VAM mission confirms the data reported by several nutritional surveys that have been carried out since 2002. An ECHO funded nutritional survey of August 2004 done by EPICENTRE (3) in the western districts of Liquisa, Bobonaro and Cova Lima, which found that the proportions of global acute malnutrition (wasting) were 14,5 % for the lowlands and 12,9 % for the highlands. Other nutritional surveys in other districts reported the following:

Acute malnutrition (Wasting %)
UNICEF MICS - 2002 (Country level)
GTZ Survey - 2003
(East: Baucau & Viqueque)
Demographic Health Survey - 2003
(Country level)
Oxfam Survey - 2004 West: Oecussi
CARE/Epicentre survey 2004
LL : 14.5
West: Liquica, Bobonaro & Covalima
HL : 12.9

These levels of acute malnutrition are above the emergency thresholds (10 %). Furthermore, the VAM mission has indicated that the situation can be expected to further deteriorate during the next food gap season between November and February, as the poor results of the last agricultural season have left the population with insufficient food stocks to cover the yearly hunger gap.