Infant and child mortality are declining in Timor-Leste, according to the newly released 2009-10 Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey (TLDHS). Still, many children are suffering from malnutrition, and too few are fully vaccinated. High fertility and closely spaced pregnancies also place young children at risk.
The infant mortality rate, deaths within the first 12 months of life, has declined in Timor-Leste from 83 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1996-2000 to 45 deaths per 1,000 live births in the period of 2005-2010. Under-five mortality has also declined in the same time period from 115 deaths to 64. While this represents considerable progress in child survival, the infant and child mortality rates in Timor-Leste remain high.
Only half (53%) of children age 12-23 months are fully immunized against serious infectious diseases including diphtheria, polio, and measles. Almost one in four children (23%) has received no vaccinations at all. Full vaccination coverage varies widely throughout Timor-Leste, ranging from only 43% in Dili to 79% in Aileu.
Malnutrition and anemia in young children are substantial problems in Timor-Leste. More than half (58%) of children under age 5 are stunted or too short for their age. In addition, 38% of children suffer from anemia, most often caused by poor diet, malaria, and intestinal worms. Both malnutrition and anemia put children at risk for infections and impaired ability to learn and succeed in school.
Timorese women have almost 6 children, on average. While this represents a decline from 8 children per woman reported in 2003, the total fertility rate in Timor-Leste is one of the highest in Asia. Closely spaced pregnancies are very common. Just under one-third (29%) of infants in Timor-Leste are born less than 2 years after a previous birth. The under 5 mortality rate for children born less than 2 years after a previous birth is 114 deaths per 1,000 live births—twice the rate of 58 deaths per 1,000 live births for children born 3 years after a previous birth. Increasing contraceptive use and spacing births at least 3 years apart will save many children’s lives.
The 2009-10 TLDHS includes data from a nationally representative sample of 13,137 women age 15-49 and 4,076 men age 15-49. This sample provides estimates for Timor-Leste as a whole, for urban and rural areas, and for each of the 13 districts.
The 2009-10 Timor-Leste Demographic and Health Survey (TLDHS) was implemented by the National Statistics Directorate of the Directorate General for Analysis and Research of the Ministry of Finance, under the aegis of the Ministry of Health (MOH) of Timor-Leste. ICF Macro, an ICF International company, provided technical assistance through every phase of the survey through the USAID-funded MEASURE DHS programme.