UNICEF works to help prevent malnutrition among youngest Timorese

4 August 2006

As Timor-Leste moves into its fourth month of emergency, humanitarian aid workers fear that malnutrition could spread, said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is working to ensure that the country’s youngest citizens receive adequate nutrition.

As Timor-Leste moves into its fourth month of emergency, humanitarian aid workers fear that malnutrition could spread, said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is working to ensure that the country’s youngest citizens receive adequate nutrition.

“There is an urgency to identify the severe cases quickly. Yet at the same time we are faced with the dilemma of whether we can assure them quality treatment,” said UNICEF’s Project Officer for Child Survival and Maternal Health Care, Jennifer Barak.

Before this year’s crisis, sparked when a third of the armed forces was dismissed, touching off deadly clashes that caused mass displacement, Timor-Leste was already the most undernourished country in the Asia-Pacific region. Almost half of children below age five were underweight, with 15 per cent severely underweight, according to the agency.

To identify children who are malnourished in the current emergency, the Health Ministry – supported by UNICEF and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – launched a nutritional screening programme targeting an estimated 10,000 children living in more than 60 camps.

UNICEF and four local partner organizations have also conducted a rapid assessment of the water and sanitation situation in the camps and villages hosting those who have fled violence in Timor-Leste, where some 155,000 people are displaced. According to the assessment, 60 per cent of the villages are without sufficient water supply.

To help alleviate the problem, UNICEF supported the Government’s services by delivering water to Baucau District, home to more than 25,000 displaced people.

The agency also distributed family water kits, which include items such as water containers and water purification tablets, to the displaced communities in Liquiça District. In addition, it is setting up emergency classes for children whose education was interrupted by the violence.

 

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