24 January 2009

UNICEF says death of Timorese children under five years of age has not doubled

UNICEF says death of Timorese children under five years of age has not doubled

22 January, TIMOR-LESTE – “UNICEF regrets that the adjustment of figures may have given the wrong impression that under-five mortality rate seemed to have almost doubled – from “55” in 2006 to “97” in 2007. The difference between the 2006 and 2007 data is because the 2007 data had to be adjusted to reflect a more accurate situation of children in Timor-Leste. This does not mean that that under-five mortality rate has doubled.” This was the statement of UNICEF Representative Mr. Jun Kukita.

Under-five mortality rate is the number of children out of 1,000 live births who die before reaching the age of 5 years. It is one of the indicators that is used to help measure the health status of children. The UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report showed “55” under-five mortality rate in 2006 and “97” in 2007.

“The under-five mortality rate of 55 used in last year’s State of the World’s Children Report was based on statistical calculation and was not reflecting the actual situation in Timor-Leste,” Mr. Kukita further explained. “My office has informed our New York Headquarters, which coordinates with the UN Population Division, on the discrepancy of data. The UN Population Division issues the unified UN statistical figures extrapolated from internationally accepted statistical sources such as the 2003 Demographic Health Survey and the 2004 Timor-Leste National Census. Last year’s figures were also based on old data before 1999 and treated different survey data equally, since they did not have enough background information. We explained that they have not considered the 1999 and 2006 crisis which affected the whole country – including the health delivery system.”

“We acknowledge that our Headquarters have carefully reviewed additional information that we had sent to them and the under-five mortality figure as well as other figures were adjusted to more realistic ones. Thus, the adjusted under-five mortality figure is now at 97 – which is very much closer to the 130 official government figure based on 2004 Census data. I repeat that this figure does not in any means reflect that there was a doubling of children under five years old dying in Timor-Leste. It reflects the proper adjustment of figures.”

Mr. Kukita further stated that UNICEF has been working very closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners on health and nutrition programmes to address the issue of health of children and women.

“We should vigorously continue our joint efforts to tackle the high under-five mortality and overall mortality rates here in Timor-Leste. Second, we should also continue to support building the capacity of the government in establishing a strong statistical data base,” Mr. Kukita continued “In this regard this year’s Demographic Health Survey and the National Census of 2010 will be critical to help provide more accurate figures on how children and women are faring in terms of their health.”

*END *

For additional information, please contact:

Mary Ann Q. Maglipon, Chief of Communication Section, UNICEF Timor-Leste +670-723 1103 Email: mmaglipon@unicef.org

Domingus Monemnasi, Senior Communication Assistant, UNICEF Timor-Leste +670-724 0601; Email: dmonemnasi@unicef.org (For Queries in Tetum)

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