September Focus: Timor-Leste

4 September 2019

Our monthly focus for September is on Timor-Leste and our partners at HIAM Health.

HIAM Health began in 2003, seeking to combat malnutrition and give women more control over their lives and their families, by increasing their nutrition and diversifying their family’s personal food production. HIAM Health is unique to Timor-Leste; the only organisation tackling nutrition through empowering and educating women, as well as providing residential rehabilitation for malnourished children.


Shortly after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Timor Leste was invaded by Indonesia. After a quarter of a century of occupation and conflict, and three years of UN-granted transition, independence was finally granted in 2002. The conflict left Timor Leste with little infrastructure, widespread unemployment, poverty, and political and economic instability.

Timor-Leste is a mountainous country which understandably makes feeding its population of 1.3 million difficult. It is estimated only 11% of its area is farmed and, of that 40% is on slopes with the various problems of cultivation including soil erosion. 70% of the population depend on subsistence farming. The country is dependent on food imports but earns little international currency and it’s food supply is dependent upon fluctuations in the international markets.

Nearly half of children in Timor Leste are underweight (the third highest in the world) and often suffer stunting due to spiritually fatalist food taboos based on myths and experiences from family members deaths. Contributing to their malnutrition, the country also suffers from chronic poverty, food insecurity, poor hygiene and sanitation, and low levels of education (particularly for women).


HIAM Health 

Treatments and support are available within the centre from pregnancy to the child’s second birthday, given the importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life regarding the child’s ability to grow and learn. During this time, the programme offers education to families around nutrition, sanitation, hygiene practices, as well as cooking and horticulture – all the while challenging the traditional food taboos.

Programmes include:

  • Establishing community gardens to teach irrigation and innovative agricultural techniques
  • Hygiene and Nutrition education
  • Training government-funded Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs)
  • Encouraging the cultivation of the Moringa Plant


Make sure to check out our social media throughout September for more information about HIAM Health, their progress and how you can help! 


To donate to HIAM Health, click here.

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