Timor-Leste Floods: Urgent call for assistance

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Heavy rains across Timor-Leste from 29 March to 4 April 2021 associated with a tropical storm resulted in flash floods and landslides throughout the country, with the capital city Dili and surrounding low-lying areas the worst affected. On 5 April the tropical storm gained intensity and was upgraded to a category 1 cyclone named Seroja, and on 8 April, the Government declared a state of calamity in Dili and called for international assistance.

Rice and maize production was severely affected by the floods, landslides and strong winds, which completely destroyed some rice fields. Manatuto municipality was the most affected, particularly Laclo and Manatuto post-administratives. Irrigated agricultural land near rivers was washed away and irrigation infrastructures sustained extensive damages. A Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) assessment identified 90 sucos where such infrastructure was damaged, with infrastructure in Baucau municipality critically affected and that in Viqueque, Bobonaro, Aileu and RAEOA moderately damaged. If the damage remains unrepaired, 2 800 ha of rice will be left unirrigated or insufficiently irrigated, leading to losses of 60 percent of the yield worth USD 1.5 million annually.

The floods have worsened the situation for marginal farming households who had already lost significant assets and income as a result of multiple shocks. The incursion of the fall armyworm migratory pest into the country in February 2020 damaged 2 880 ha of maize, resulting in significant production losses. In some areas, the pest destroyed up to 90 percent of the crop. In addition, outbreaks of African swine fever has had devastating consequences on pig production across the country, with confirmed losses of 28 percent of the total pig population, while local estimates report losses between 25 and 90 percent. Vulnerable households also lack mechanization and have limited access to inputs and markets, restricting their ability to recover.