400,000 people – around one third of Timor-Leste’s population – are estimated to be severely affected by El Niño-induced drought. Over 100,000 people currently face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes, and are likely to move into Crisis levels of food insecurity as the impacts of a poor harvest accrue. Reports of failed staple crops, including maize and rice, due to delayed, erratic or insufficient rains are widespread. Livestock sickness and losses have been reported as water and food supplies run low. WASH conditions are worsening. Food and water shortages are hampering school feeding programmes and the incidence of diarrhoea is increasing.
While mountainous areas report better crop prospects after improved rainfall since January, southern, eastern and northern coastal areas, including in Lautem, Viqueque, Covalima and Oecusse, remain severely affected by drought. In these areas, the May dry season is expected to set in early, reducing the likelihood of late season improvements in crop growth and harvest yields. With 41% of Timor-Leste’s population below the poverty line and over 70% reliant on subsistence agriculture, high levels of vulnerability exacerbate the impact of the drought. Negative coping mechanisms, including eating less, changing to less safe water sources, and selling of assets are reported.