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UN steps up response, as thousands impacted by Timor-Leste floods

Aerial view near Dili, Timor-Leste. (file photo)
UN Photo/Martine Perret
Aerial view near Dili, Timor-Leste. (file photo)

UN steps up response, as thousands impacted by Timor-Leste floods

Humanitarian Aid

United Nations agencies in Timor-Leste are supporting response efforts, as floods and landslides left widespread damage across the country, including in the capital, Dili.  

According to preliminary official figures, 21 people are reported to have died and about 2,065 households – approximately 10,325 people – affected across Timor-Leste. About 76 per cent of the affected people are in Dili, large parts of which are under water. 

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Severe damage has also been reported to critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges and medical centres, while communication networks and electricity are said to be disrupted in some of the worst affected areas. 

Roy Trivedy, UN Resident Coordinator in Timor-Leste said that UN agencies and partners are supporting the national response, adding that “as an emergency response measure, [we] extend full support to the people and Government of Timor-Leste in this hour of need.” 

“We are deeply concerned about the communities, especially women and children, who are often most affected by natural disasters. We will work with the authorities to mobilize all possible resources to support the response”, Mr. Trivedy added. 

There are concerns that the disaster could hit COVID-19 prevention and response efforts, as the national medical storage facility was heavily flooded and many medical supplies damaged or washed away. A COVID-19 isolation facility had to be temporarily evacuated and the national laboratory also affected by the floods. 

There are fears that the situation could deteriorate further, if the rains do not let up. 

Evacuating families  

According to Dageng Liu, UN World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director in Timor-Leste, “the priority right now is to continue evacuating and relocating of families most affected”. 

He added that food and cooking facilities are also needed in evacuation centres, as are vehicles to transport people there. As of Monday, about 3,000 people are sheltering in some 11 evacuation centres in Dili. 

An IOM staff member speaks with people affected by the floods in Timor-Leste.
IOM Photo | An IOM staff member speaks with people affected by the floods in Timor-Leste.

“WFP has provided transport support to other UN agencies to move their supplies and we are fully committed to doing our part once we know more about the extent of the damages”, Mr. Liu added. 

UN agencies have also delivered food, safe drinking water, temporary bedding material, personal protection equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizers, and set up mobile toilets at four of the evacuation centres.

Similarly, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has dispatched dignity kits, which include hygiene and sanitary items, such as sanitary napkins, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, for women and girls displaced by the floods. The agency also supported the transport of midwives from health centres to evacuation centres to provide essential services to pregnant women and expectant mothers.

The agencies are currently using existing resources to respond to the flood emergency and will mobilize additional resources if required, once the needs become clearer.

Indonesia also affected 

Damage has also been reported across the border, in Indonesia, where more than 75 people are reported to have died.

According to initial reports, over 25,000 people have been affected in West Nusa Tenggara province. Flooding has also been reported in East Nusa Tenggara province and roads and power lines damaged at many places due to landslides. National, provincial and local authorities, as well as humanitarian organizations are providing assistance and assisting with evacuations.  

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) continues to monitor the situation and so far, international assistance has not been requested.