Disaster preparedness and
resiliency: Timor-Leste

TIMOR LESTE: AT A GLANCE

Population:  1,321,637 

Major Threats: Floods, Droughts, Cyclones, Earthquake

Populations Affected: Rural populations

Locations Affected:  Bobonaro, Dili, Aileu, Manatuto, Oecussi, Ainaro

Industries Affected: Agriculture, Transportation, Infrastructure

Compounding Issues: Climate Change Adaptation, Environmental Degradation, Livelihood

World Risk Index Ranking: 10

Global Climate Risk Index: N/A

Timor Leste as the eleventh member of ASEAN countries located near north Australia and used to be part of Indonesia before declared Independence in 2002. A small country with experienced conflict has caused so many losses and brought them as one of the vulnerable countries regarding economic, hazards, and natural disasters.

 

Over 15 years of independence Timor Leste has experienced several disasters that led to the loss of lives and damage to region infrastructures. The government itself currently still struggles to accommodate and delivers best practices in terms of Disaster Risk Reduction, even though the national agency has been established disaster mapping risk to mitigate and reduce victims are still a challenging issue.

Timor Leste's economic growth is quite low amongst other Southeast Asian countries and the financial dependent on petroleum and import from including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia. Concerning disasters, a number of hazards have been faced and repeatedly affected their economy every time a disaster occurs as the fact that they have a limited source of funds to respond to it.

 

Unsustainable agricultural practices and natural resource extraction has led to food and livestock shortage if the face of disruption. Classified as one of the least developed countries, Timor Leste experienced high unemployment.

Due to high risks of climate change will potentially impact agriculture, health, water resources and led to harvest losses as well as poverty. The condition made the rural population vulnerable to any climate change issues. Most populations in Timor Leste rely on climate activities, especially agriculture, as primarily livelihood would drive the population to food insecurity.

 

The impact of these hazards seemingly inherence in every disaster caused by climate change and every time its occurs community needs to re-build all over again from scratch, yet of build back better they were forced to accepts the living condition they currently faced isolated and underserved.

  • Earthquake 

    Several earthquakes that occur during 2020 are considered as high risks hazard in the country means that its potential brought damage not only to building and infrastructure also human lives. It reminds us of how important mitigation is among communities. It remains an issue to raising community awareness, not a natural responsibility to bear. 

  • Cyclone 

    The flood that hit Timor Leste last year was triggered by cyclone caused damage to some infrastructure, a bridge was collapsed, and road access blocked. 

  • Drought 

    Every year drought was one of the most challenging issues in Timor Leste, and thousand of farmers experienced harvest losses. The well which they used to access water now has gone dry. The government responds to such disasters quite slow. Dry, impoverished, and isolated is the picture that describes their living condition. 

  • Floods 

    Typically flood happens along with heavy rain, but as mentioned earlier, cyclone potentially followed by the wave which impact communities live in Timor Leste, thousand of houses were flooded in which the water level up 2 to 3 metersThe losses have scored millions, and hundreds had evacuated. 

Government entities at all levels still struggle to respond effectively to a range of hazards that the country faces. The government must prioritize DRR planning, including practical and straightforward policy, to accommodate works side by side with NGOs / CBOs to addressing climate change adaptation in Timor Leste.

 

Government of Timor Leste established National Disaster Risk Management Plan (NDRMP) and District Disaster Management Committee (DDMC), and their sub-district counterpart now plans independently and is funded directly from the Ministry of Finance with annual appropriation.

The government has allocated budget to respond to any disasters; unfortunately, the allocated fund remains insufficient to cover all activities related to DRR prevention and mitigation, more likely to react to it instead of mitigation planning. On the other hand, International NGOs which focus their works in DRR are restricted to donor regulations.

 

This situation has led to limited time and funds on immediate disaster response and mitigating only the most highly vulnerable risks that pose immediate threats to residents.

Several donors currently focus their activities regarding the DRR program in Timor Leste, such as Plan International and Mercy Corps. Donors will have opportunities to make changes in the Country and bring positive impact to residents and support for sustainable development in areas of focus. This includes collaboration to increase the potential for success and sustained impact, plug into civil society organizations to government funding cycles, assess and improve current government institution capacity, support hyper-local DRR solutions, and provide more unrestricted funding.

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