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Republic of Korea contributes US$ 7.8 million to improve health and nutrition of school-aged children in Timor-Leste

DILI – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) today welcomed a US$ 7.8 million donation from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Through this generous contribution, WFP and WHO will work towards improving the health and nutritional status of school children in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports (MoEYS) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Timor-Leste.

For the next four years, over 300,000 children will benefit from the “Say No to 5S” (Starvation, Soil-transmitted helminthiasis, Skin diseases, Smoking and Sugary/alcoholic drinks) project implemented across the country.

“The project provides a comprehensive set of support, ranging from technical and logistical support to capacity building, provision of Primary Health Care Package and fortified food, and improving the school environment, said Ms. Eunju Cha, KOICA Country Director. “I believe that our collaborative efforts, with strong coordination, communication, and action amongst stakeholders, will lead to safeguarding children’s well-being in this challenging time,” she added.

In Timor-Leste, food security and malnutrition remain an ongoing challenge, with over one-third of the population chronically food insecure. The continued burden of communicable diseases and unhealthy life habits are another concern amongst Timorese children. 

“This project comes at an opportune moment and is an important investment which will result in a better future for the children of Timor-Leste. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport will work together with WHO and WFP to mitigate the risk of diseases and address child malnutrition. We will work hand in hand to provide nutritious meals, primary health care package and health education to students, and ensure that schools serve as a space that facilitates better learning,” said H.E. dr. Odete Maria Freitas Belo, Minister of Health.

“In Timor-Leste, it is our mandate to invest in every child’s health and nutrition. MoEYS is excited to provide more nutritious meals, primary health packages, as well as health education through this multi-year partnership. The school health and nutrition project will also contribute to improved school attendance and better learning outcomes through the provision of health and nutritious meals,” said H.E. Armindo Maia, Minister of Education, Youth, and Sports.

Under the “Say No to 5S” project, WFP will introduce mineral- and vitamin-rich fortified rice as a part of the school meals programme, targeting 79,000 children in over 400 schools in Baucau, Bobonaro, and Manufahi. The project will also focus on rehabilitating kitchens and making hygienic cooking mandatory to ensure the quality and safety of school meals.

“Rice fortification is an effective strategy in reducing micronutrient deficiencies. By introducing fortified rice into the school feeding programme, we provide the opportunity for better nutrition for children, particularly those from poor communities, who, would otherwise not have access to adequate and balanced diets. The partnership between the WFP and WHO, supported by KOICA, will enable us to make a lasting impact on the wellbeing and development of children in Timor-Leste,” said Dageng Liu, WFP Country Director.

In this island nation, soil-transmitted helminthiasis prevalence remains at 18 percent, the epidemiological situation of highly contagious skin infections such as scabies and impetigo is still unknown; and the prevalence of alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking among 13 to 15-year-old male students is more than 14 percent and 32 percent. respectively.

WHO will provide a primary health care package to all primary and pre-secondary schools students. Approximately 150,000 male and 146,000 female students aged from 6 to 14 years will be regularly examined by skilled health staff for skin infections, nutritional status, and eye/oral/ear health, as well as provided with deworming medication. Students will also learn about healthy eating and living. 

“Through our longstanding partnership, we envisage that all school-aged children and their communities over the country will engage in healthy behaviour and health literacy while enjoying accessible, continuous care in their campus where Health Promoting Schools will be implemented. SN5S is an integrated approach that addresses school-aged children’s health, nutrition, and food security under one roof. This is a milestone move that will institutionalise nutrition, health and education for all,” said Dr Arvind Mathur, WHO Representative.

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Timor-Leste Nutrition School feeding


Jiyoung Michelle Han, WFP Timor-Leste ,

Elisabeth Goncalves, WHO Timor-Leste,