Timor-Leste: Appeal for assistance - Food supplies for people affected by drought and floods

To: All Governmental, Non-Governmental, International Organisations, and the United Nations and Its Agencies

Food security issue is a major concern for the rural communities as well as for the Government of Timor-Leste. With subsistent agriculture system, Timor-Leste traditionally has to cope with food shortage annually especially during the lean period between November to February.

The food security problem in this year, however, will be extraordinarily pronounced than previous years due to the delayed onset of the rains at the beginning of the rainy season as well as to the continuation of prolonged drought throughout the season. As a result, overall food production shortfall by 21 percent and household food shortage in many rural areas of the country especially in Oecussi, the Central Highlands and some communities in Lautem are expected to become a reality. The Crop and Food Assessment Mission which was undertaken by FAO and WFP in late April estimated the number of vulnerable people would be equivalent to 150,000 people, requiring about 14,000 tonnes of food assistance. Household food shortages are expected to commence in October 2003 and continue through much of the lean period until February 2004.

The nationwide food availability was further deteriorated by the impact of the recent flooding which destroyed 381 hectares of rice fields and 672 hectares of farmlands, affecting 7,000 people in communities in the southwestern districts of Timor-Leste. A short-term emergency relief to the victims of the floods are currently being provided with supplies donated by UNOCHA and USAID, which will last for duration of 2 months. I take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation of the Government of Timor-Leste to the organisations, which assisted us in the provision of immediate food aid to the affected areas.. The long-term solution for these people who endure from the floods is, however, yet to be settled.

In this connection, WFP will field a technical mission to Timor-Leste from 11 to 23 August 2003 to conduct a "Food Needs Assessment". This mission will ascertain the extent and the severity of food shortages in the flood and drought stricken areas with the purpose of mapping targeted communities for the potential food assistance. The mission will also determine local capacity and logistical possibility for the potential food aid distribution. The mission report will be forwarded to all donors as soon as it is released.

In the light of forthcoming food shortage, the Government of Timor-Leste, limited with its budget constrains, recognises the lack of local capacity and resources to respond in a timely way to the needs of vulnerable communities when their food supply is depleted. Once again, in view of the above situation, I would like to appeal to all governments, non-government and international organisations including the United Nations and its agencies to assist our vulnerable people, especially children and women, in better coping with severe hunger and consequently nutrition related problems in the forthcoming months.

Your contribution and in whatever form, will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your continued support.

The Prime Ministe