MANATUTO, 13 may 2021 (TATOLI) – Over 39.067 people, including over 4380 children under-five in Manatuto are benefitting from The MoH-UNICEF-EU Opened Defection Free program Since its launch in Manatuto.

The number was declared by the Ministry of Health following the visit to the Manatuto Municipality together with the European Union (EU) Ambassador, Andrew Jacobs, Christina Faustino, Cooperation Attaché at the Embassy of Portugal, and Bilal Durrani, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative, met with the Municipality Administrator, Bernardo Lopes, ADM Administrator of Administrative Post, Cosme Ximenes, Head of Cairui Village, Roberto Ximenes, and community members to assess progress made with the EU supported community-led total sanitation (CSTL) project to support Timor-Leste’s progress toward becoming fully ODF by the end of 2024.

Cairui village was declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) in december 2021 and is one of the most successful community-led total sanitation (CLTS) initiatives under the MoH-UNICEF-EU.

Timor-Leste Minister of Health, Odete Maria Frietas Belo, during the visit, said Communities are understanding the need for improved sanitation, and taking action to change behavior, construct toilets, and improve sanitation through this joint initiative.

“We see examples of these in places like Cairui, and I encourage communities across Timor-Leste to adopt total sanitation actions and prevent disease and malnutrition of children and families.”

The Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) in 2021 showed that 18% of the total population in Timor-Leste still practices open defecation, while it is even higher (37%) in rural areas. It further reveals that 57% of the total population is deprived of access to basic sanitation.

The Ambassador of the European Union Andrew Jacob considered ‘The implementation of the Open Defection free initiative is important to address the issue of disease, malnutrition and premature deaths. 

“The implementation of the Open Defecation free initiative is crucial to address those issues. It will make a huge difference, improving lives and children’s prospects as they grow up. This is why what we all are doing today is very important not only for the country but also for the European Union.”, said Andrew Jacobs, the European Union Ambassador to Timor-Leste.

In addition to CLTS, UNICEF works with a network of Mother Support Groups (MSG) in eight municipalities to promote hygiene, exclusive breastfeeding for every child for six months, complementary feeding, and appropriate nutrition for children and mothers.


During the visit, the Minister of Health, the European Union Ambassador, Cooperation Attaché at the Embassy of Portugal, and UNICEF Country Representative were briefed on community triggering, progress made in total sanitation, including ensuring every household has a toilet in the Suku, other sanitation solutions as well as the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and improved nutrition for children and mothers. 

They also took part in a cooking demonstration by the Villages’ MSG, toured the community to assess progress, and observed a demonstration of the community triggering process.

“The impact of poor sanitation on children and families is devastating, leading to malnutrition, disease, absence from schools, poor learning, and even death. But this can be changed with key simple steps – no open defecation, improved access to clean water and clean environments,” said Bilal Durrani, UNICEF Country Representative in Timor-Leste. “Every community member has a role to play in taking the right steps to improve sanitation and nutrition. UNICEF is proud to support actions for community-led total sanitation.”

UNICEF recently supported a Country-Led Formative Evaluation of Community-Led Total Sanitation in Timor-Leste. 

It examined all CLTS-related programming in Timor-Leste by the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and partners. The evaluation concluded that the implementation of CLTS-style programming in Timor-Leste, under the auspices of the MoH, has been a relevant and appropriate response to issues of open defecation and poor hand hygiene. 

 Recent studies and analysis show a strong link between open defecation and childhood stunting, which has an impact on cognitive development and future economic productivity.

In Timor-Leste, respiratory and diarrheal diseases remain the top two causes of infant and child mortality, both of which are strongly linked to inadequate sanitation and hygiene practices. 

Stunting puts half of the population of the country at the risk of not having their brains developed to their full potential. The first 1000 days of a child’s life are the most critical time to reverse the 47% stunting rates amongst Timorese children.

Journalist: Filomeno Martins 

Editor: Nelia Borges Rosario 



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