6 Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty

Where we are

  An extended family in rural Timor-Leste standing outside their huts
An extended family in rural Timor-Leste. Photo: Reinaldo Soares/UNDP TL

Poverty: Timor-Leste’s target of reducing the incidence of poverty to 14 per cent was set in 2004. The civil unrest of 2006 coupled with an economic contraction dealt a major setback and poverty rose to 49.9 per cent in 2007.

Currently about half of the Timorese population still lives below the poverty line of $1.25 per capita per day, with rates of poverty in rural areas being higher than in urban areas. Generally, those who have little or no education and work in agriculture are the most vulnerable. Widows, orphans of the resistance effort, and veterans are also disadvantaged.

During the last four years, the country implemented social welfare initiatives that are assisting some of the most vulnerable populations. Recent economic growth is also positive. Since 2007, annual economic growth has averaged double digits, reaching 10.4 per cent in 2012.

Challenges remain. While labour force participation is reasonably high, only ten per cent of workers are wage earners. The majority of the population have no consistent earnings and many are subsistence farmers. More than 80 per cent of the population country-wide, and 94 per cent in the villages, depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Hunger: According to the 2009-10 Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey, 58 per cent of children under five are stunted or too short for their age, indicating chronic malnutrition. Wasting (acute malnutrition) is also high at 19 per cent.

The Government and its partners are tackling malnutrition with programmes that are scaling up the management of acute malnutrition, implementing universal salt iodization, providing people with micro-nutrients and promoting good nutrition and integrated food security. Timor-Leste is also working to improve food security and reduce hunger by improving agricultural productivity.

The 2015 target of reducing the number of under-five children who are underweight to 31 per cent may be achievable if concentrated efforts in this area are accelerated.  

What needs to be done:

  • Inflation controls to ensure the poor are protected from rising food prices
  • Job creation through investment
  • Transformation from subsistence agriculture to mass production and eventually to commercial agriculture, which will generate income for farmers and increase the percentage of paid workers in the agriculture sector

UNDP's work in Timor-Leste

  • Tais weavings, belak medallions, morten necklaces and other traditional products from around Timor-Leste on display at the forum. Photo Sandra Magno/UNDP TL

    Small enterprises offer creative twist on traditional products

    Dili – Fisherman Mariano da Cruz stands amongst a vibrant crowd of entrepreneurs in Dili Convention Centre. “People keep asking us for more seaweed sweets, butmore

  • UNDP staff, including Mikiko Tanaka, Country Director (left, blue cap) and José Tanesib Anuno, Oecusse District Administrator (third from right) examine one of the new wells in Oecusse. Photo Sandra Magno/UNDP TL

    Local well changes Emilia's life

    Oecusse – Emilia Taninas smiles as she watches a small crowd of people peer into a large, 12-meter hole in front of her house. A plasticmore

Targets for MDG1
  1. Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day
    • Proportion of population below $1 (PPP) per day
    • Poverty gap ratio
    • Share of poorest quintile in national consumption
  2. Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
    • Growth rate of GDP per person employed
    • Employment-to-population ratio
    • Proportion of employed people living below $1 (PPP) per day
    • Proportion of own-account and contributing family workers in total employment
  3. Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
    • Prevalence of underweight children under-five years of age
    • Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption