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The Unreported Drought – El Niño’s Impact in Timor-Leste

by Plan International | Plan International
Monday, 20 June 2016 10:26 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The island nation Timor-Leste has been in the grip of a drought since being hit by one of the worst El Niño weather events on record.

With the third highest rate of child malnutrition in the world, 70% of the population reliant on rain fed agriculture, and more than 4 months until the next rainy season, the drought is cause for alarm.

The drought has led to water and food shortages across the country, causing crop failure, reduced family income and the death of 70,000 livestock. Families are missing meals, children’s education is being disrupted, and every day girls and women are walking long distances to collect water, with some from dirty sources.

El Niño’s impact across Africa and other regions in Asia has been well documented. But the situation in Timor-Leste has been largely unreported.

Five members of the Humanitarian Partnership Agreement (HPA), Plan International, OXFAM, World Vision, Caritas Australia and CARE, came together to assess the situation on the ground, with support from Australia Aid. Plan International has now created a short film to warn of the potentially devastating effects of the drought on Timorese children, families and communities; communities that are already struggling to cope.  

The 3.5 minute film, shot in May, is being launched on World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought and features the stories of people affected in Lautem and Saui; two of the five municipalities worst impacted by the El Niño drought.

Julmiro Manuel, from the HPA assessment team said,

We are used to hungry times in Timor-Leste. But this year, the lack of rains has made the situation much worse.

Families are eating less, selling their assets and borrowing money to survive. Children are especially vulnerable, with high numbers already malnourished.”

Plan International Country Director, Terence McCaughan said,

“Plan International, CARE, OXFAM, World Vision International and Caritas Australia are responding to the drought, including by transporting water, distributing water tanks, repairing water taps and pipes, distributing drought tolerant seeds and improving crop storage, but funding is limited, and more needs to be done to support the people of Timor-Leste at this critical time.”


Notes to Editors;

  • The film ‘The Unreported Drought – El Nino’s impact on Timor-Leste’ was partly funded by Australian Aid. The film will be available to view via the following link https://plan-international.org/film-unreported-drought-el-ninos-impact-timor-leste

  • The Humanitarian Partnership Agreement (HPA) (HPA) was launched as the formal mechanism for engagement between Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and selected accredited Australian Non-Government Organisations in rapid-onset humanitarian emergency responses and for collaboration on programmed Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Risk Management Capacity Building initiatives.

  • The NGOs involved in the HPA include: Oxfam Australia, CARE Australia, Save the Children Australia, Plan International Australia, World Vision Australia and Caritas Australia.”

  • The HPA report can be downloaded via the following link https://plan-international.org/hpa-agency-assessment-el-nino-impacts-timor-leste

  • Spokespeople are available for comment via email Imogenr.Wilson@plan-international.org Tel +670 77740385