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Publication | 29 October 2020

Malnutrition in Young Children and their Mothers in Timor-Leste

Global Food and Nutrition Security
According to the Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey, in 2016 about 46 percent of all children less than five years old are stunted, 24 percent are wasted, and 40 percent are anemic. Rural children are more at risk of being malnourished than urban children; boys are at greater risk than girls of being malnourished in their first two years of life; and thin mothers are at risk of having wasted or thin children. Only children of mothers in the richest wealth group and with the highest level of education are at lower risk of being stunted, but the differences are not large. Breastfeeding practices are better in poor and less well-educated women than among the wealthiest and best-educated women. The diversity of the complementary diet of children was generally poor. The coverage of vaccinations in Timor-Leste is generally low. The majority of households drink safe water, but children in poor households that use unprotected water sources are at greater risk of being stunted. The short stature of mothers may take a generation or more to eliminate. Delaying marriage and pregnancy until the age of 20 years, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), could be an important intervention. Interventions during pregnancy for thin, small women may help prevent low-birthweight babies and malnutrition early in childhood.