Timor-Leste floods leave death, destruction and displacement in their wake
- 09 April 2021
DILI, Timor-Leste – Forty-two deaths. Dozens missing. More than 10,000 newly homeless. Impassable roads. Power blackouts. Rescue attempts requiring excavators and cranes. This is the devastating aftermath for Timor-Leste, an island nation already battling COVID-19, after being hit with torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja. The downpour caused landslides and the worst flooding in four decades.
The Government, with support by United Nations agencies including UNFPA and development partners, is leading the humanitarian response.
“I have never seen such destructive floods in my life,” said Anna Dos Santos, 39, a mother of seven who lived in the mountainous area of Lemonara in the capital city. When the main bridge was damaged, she had to wait three days before receiving any help.
Her husband has been trying to salvage any of their belongings among the ruins of their house. Ms. Dos Santos is currently staying at the Catholic Church parish hall in the Balide neighbourhood, one of 19 evacuation centres established by the government. “It is hard to say when I will leave since I don’t have a house.”
Amandina Santina Lopes Guteres, a 32-year-old mother of two, is also at the centre, which is hosting about 150 people. “The kitchen area of my house is totally destroyed, and most of the house will need major repairs before I can move in. It’s not safe. I have no option but to hope that there will be no more rains.”
UNFPA is distributing dignity kits, which contain essential items including sanitary napkins, soap and underwear, to meet basic hygiene needs. UNFPA is also attending to the welfare of pregnant women and new mothers, including facilitating the transport of midwives from health centres to evacuation centres.
“We are particularly concerned about the health of vulnerable groups like pregnant mothers,” said Dr. Domingas Bernardo, UNFPA Assistant Country Representative. “We are currently availing mobile maternity clinics to help save lives of mothers and babies.”