East Timor: Second-worst in the world with ‘alarming’ hunger rate

East Timor registers ‘alarming’ levels of hunger, a situation that has worsened in recent years, and is the second worst-ranked among 107 countries, after Chad, according to the latest edition of the Global Hunger Index.

The report, which gives East Timor a Global Hunger Index of 37.6 (a maximum of 100, the worst rating), considers the situation in the country ‘alarming’, making it the second-worst in this year’s index among the countries analysed.

Noting that the situation has worsened in East Timor, the authors of the report explained that this is due to several factors that have contributed to chronic food insecurity in East Timor.

Among the factors highlights low agricultural productivity, inadequate food consumption both in quantity and quality, and the dependence of many nationals on unique low subsistence value strategies.

“Basic sanitation infrastructure, clean water, roads, irrigation, schools, and health is poor, as is the country’s level of financial and human capital,” the author said.

“Climate risks have also had negative impacts (Global Hunger Index 2019),” the author said.

Of particular concern is child malnutrition, with more than half of children suffering from dwarfism and almost 15% of children suffering from debilitation,” the report said.

The annual Index, authored by Weit Hunger Hilfe and Concern Worldwide, and including the participation of experts from Chatham House and the European Centre for Development Policy Management, seeks to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels.

The Global Hunger Index is based on four basic indicators: “undernutrition (part of the population with insufficient calorie intake), infant debilitation or ‘wasting’ (children under five who are underweight for their height, reflecting acute malnutrition), infant dwarfism or ‘stunting’ (children under five who are underweight for their age, reflecting chronic malnutrition), and infant mortality (under-five mortality rate, reflecting the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).”

Based on these indicators, the Global Hunger Index determines hunger on a scale of 100, with zero being the best possible score (no hunger) and 100 being the worst, with ratings divided by severity, from low to extremely alarming.

East Timor recorded an improvement between 2006 and 2012, from an index of 41.4 to 34.6, but the situation has worsened in recent years, with the country falling to 37.6, the second worst-ranked and the only one of three with alarming levels of hunger.

The report noted that the prevalence of malnutrition in East Timor reaches almost one-third of the population (30.9%), with the third-highest rate of child dwarfism (51.2%).

Infant mortality fell from 7.7 in 2006 to 4.6 in 2018, but almost 31% of the East Timor population is undernourished – a figure that was 41.6% in 2002.

Among children under 5 years of age, 14.6% suffer from wasting or acute malnutrition, and the figure has increased by 9.9% in the last five years.

More than half (51.2%) suffer from dwarfism or chronic malnutrition, the second-worst level of the countries analysed, behind Yemen.

In regional terms – encompassing South, East and Southeast Asia – East Timor has the worst ranking, seven points above Afghanistan, and more than 10 above average.