DILI – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomes a contribution of US$200,000 from the Government of New Zealand towards its response for families affected by the worst flooding Timor-Leste has seen in decades.
“New Zealand is a long-standing partner of WFP and providing humanitarian assistance is one of our priority areas. The spread of COVID-19 in Timor-Leste and the floods has made it difficult for women and children to access adequate and nutritious food,” said Ambassador Philip Hewitt. “With this contribution, we will be able to sustain the lives of families who are living in emergency conditions.”
On 4 April 2021, the island nation of 1.3 million was hit by torrential rains brought by Cyclone Seroja. More than 25,000 households across all 13 municipalities were affected by rains and floods. Of these, 83 percent were located in Dili, the capital. The disaster also caused damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure and large areas of agricultural lands.
The cyclone struck when Timor-Leste had been experiencing COVID-19 hardships. The prices of food have been on an upward trend over the past year due to supply chain disruptions. The price of imported rice, for example, is almost 10 percent higher than six months ago, and a further 20 percent higher than one year ago, according to WFP monitoring.
“This funding from New Zealand comes at a critical time when people’s ability to feed themselves and their families face the double threats of COVID-19 and climate change,” said Dageng Liu, WFP’s Country Director in Timor-Leste.
“With thousands of acres of agricultural land still submerged by floods, a poor harvest of maize and other crops is inevitable. Timor-Leste needs the support of the international community to prevent hunger and suffering,” he added.
Timor-Leste has one of the highest rates of undernutrition in Asia and the Pacific, with stunting affecting half of boys and girls. Anaemia is also highly prevalent among women of child-bearing age.
The funding will enable WFP to procure high energy biscuits – rich in vitamins and minerals – for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, to be distributed by the Ministry of Health and the Secretariat of State for Civil Protection. It will also be used to support nutrition screening for families in evacuation centres, and will help the Ministry of Health store emergency nutrition supplies and transport them from Dili to the municipalities.