Timor-Leste's worst flooding in recent memory has taken lives and forced thousands of families to evacuate their homes in the middle of a pandemic.

Close to 25,000 people are estimated to have been affected by heavy rains and extensive flooding across the country with the capital Dili, most affected. 

The disastrous floods which hit over the Easter weekend, claimed the lives of 42 people, with many still missing.  

UNICEF is on the ground urgently delivering supplies such as clean water, blankets, and face masks. We are supporting flood-affected families in more than 13 of the evacuation shelters in Dili. 

Child friendly centres are also being established in evacuation centres to provide children with a safe space to play.  
Bilal Aurang Zeb Durrani, UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste, helps a mother and her baby who have been displaced by the flooding. She is being provided with baby clothes, towels, blankets and more. © UNICEF/UN0439716/Benevides

The threat of COVID-19 

But with the growing risk of COVID-19 spreading in crowded evacuation centres, the situation is critical. 

Extreme weather events don't usually reach Timor-Leste and Cyclone Seroja took the small country by surprise, devastating families who were already struggling and threatening the country's fragile health system. 

UNICEF is always prepared to help children in an emergency but this is far from normal.  

This time the disaster hit at the same time as an escalation in the country’s COVID-19 situation. In Dili, the floods disturbed a COVID-19 lockdown, displacing more than 13,500 people into crowded evacuation centres. Many already live well below the poverty line.  

UNICEF is on the ground providing:   

  • Clean drinking water, soap and handwashing stations  
  • blankets, mats and jerry cans  
  • hand sanitiser and face masks 
  • child friendly spaces and psychosocial first aid. 
UN Resident Coordinator, Roy Trivedy, and UNICEF Representative, Bilal Durrani, help unload relief items at a shelter for people displaced by flooding in Balide, Dili Municipality. © UNICEF/UN0439747
Timorese children and young people bring their jerrycans to fetch water from the other village by crossing the lake in Dili. Their families are stuck on the hill without road access due to heavy rain. © UNICEF/UN0439724/Benevides

Now the country begins the long task of recovery from this disaster. UNICEF will remain on the ground in Timor-Leste providing ongoing support, including clean water, health care and learning materials to help children get back to school. 

We are there before, during and long after disasters.   
Gizela Moniz da Silva, UNICEF Timor-Leste Child Protection Officer, holds a baby of a family who has been displaced by the flooding. © UNICEF/UN0439723/Benevides

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