26 May 2010 Vulnerable people in Timor-Leste will receive a nutritional boost, thanks to a new food fortification factory set up with assistance from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The new site will produce fortified blended food, called Timor-Vita, targeted for children under the age of five and pregnant and lactating women.
The new scheme will also replace the need for costly imports, providing a market for Timorese farmers. Fortified foods in Timor-Leste will now have a longer shelf life since they will no longer have to travel months by sea and can be produced fresh in the country.
The country is among the poorest in Asia, with some one third of its population regularly experiencing food shortages. It ranks 162 out of 182 countries in the 2009 Human Development Index (HDI) report of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the lowest among all Asian nations.
According to WFP, although the average Timorese household spends more than 60 per cent of their average income on food, it is estimated that the 40 per cent of the population living below the poverty line consumes less than the 2,100 calories a day required for a normal, healthy life.
Timor-Leste’s malnutrition rates are some of the highest in the continent, with nearly all of the country’s children either chronically or severely malnourished. The national also has a wasting rate of about 12 per cent.
“Timor-Vita is a big success,” said Joan Fleuren, WFP’s Representative in the fledgling South-East Asian nation. “It is a locally-produced nutritious product that in the long term will benefit the local farmers and the local economy.”
The food is packed in small packets to ease distribution and storage, and is ready to cook as it is.
WFP has provided technical assistance for the new factory, run by the private company Timor Global. Currently, the site produces 300 megatons of food, enough to feed 64,000 people.
Mr. Fleuren voiced hope that the Timorese Government will soon be able to assume full responsibility over the nutrition programme as it has with its school meals initiative.
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