A. Situation analysis
Description of the disaster
The global El Niño event of 2015/2016 whilst now in neutral phase, has affected 60 million people worldwide, including communities in South East Asia and the Pacific, and will continue to have potential long term implications. In Timor-Leste, drought from delayed, intermittent or absent rain in 2015 and 2016 has seriously affected agricultural yields due to the failure, deterioration and delay of crops. Livestock deaths, food insecurity and water scarcity has further compounded pre-existing vulnerabilities relating to nutrition and population health. It was acknowledged that this may seriously impact livelihoods and recovery abilities in the longer term. Government and multi agency led assessments that took place between December 2015 and April 2016 revealed that up to 120,000 people in the five districts of Lautem, Viqueque, Baucau, Oecusse and Covalima were affected. [See Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) reports here] Continuous monitoring revealed that in the later part of 2016, affected communities were using their usual coping mechanisms including selling stock and assets, borrowing cash and food, reducing food portions, consuming seed and food from stores for the lean season and finding new water sources. These methods are usually reserved for the traditional lean season of November to March and thus some communities have continued to struggle into the rainy season and 2017.
CVTL monitored the rainfall in affected districts until May 2017, aware that there was a 50% chance that La Niña could result in heavy rainfall, leading to increased risk and impact of floods and landslips. While the likelihood of La Niña formation declined during the second half of 2017 and the most likely scenario is continued neutral conditions for the remainder of 2017. Meteorological agencies and the Red Cross Red Crescent climate centre note that in many parts of the world, including Timor-Leste, there is a forecast of unusual rainfall conditions. CVTL have updated their Floods Contingency Plan and participated in the Joint Rapid Agricultural Assessment, along with other El Niño response agencies, on the delayed impact of El Niño Southern Oscillation survey.
Key findings from the rapid assessment conducted in May-June 2017 of six drought-affected municipalities (Baucau, Bobonaro, Covalima, Lautem, Viqueque and Oecusse) indicated that 67% of the households in most affected areas are still experiencing the effects of drought and continue implementing negative coping measures such as reducing meal portion sizes and using households' savings. Most farming households already experienced reductions of two consecutive harvest seasons due to drought (2015 and 2016). Based on previous drought experience in Timor-Leste, some communities can take up to two years to recover. A further poor harvest will impact the quantity and diversity of food available to maintain a nutritious diet and increase the cost burden of higher food price at market. The HCT, along with CVTL, will continue monitoring the situation together with the Ministry of Agriculture through follow-up assessments.