Aerial Assessments Help Timor-Leste Recover Following the Worst Floods in 40 Years

Photo: WFP/Caleb Gorton
Published April 23, 2021

Dili – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), with support from Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), has conducted a series of assessment flights on behalf of the Government to determine the extent of agricultural and infrastructural damages caused by Cyclone Seroja that hit the Timor-Leste early April.

The cyclone brought torrential rains and flash floods – the worst in 40 years, with Dili, the capital, hardest hit. Following the disaster, the Government declared a State of Calamity and called for international assistance.

“With logistics support from the U.N. World Food Programme, we have been able to distribute life-saving relief materials to families affected by the floods within 48 hours. These aerial assessments are critical in helping us understand the true extent of damages not only in Dili but also in other districts. With the information generated, we can then determine our needs, set priorities and design interventions going forward,” said Joaquim Martins, Secretary of State for Civil Protection.

According to the preliminary data, some 3,954 acres of rice and 729 acres of corn crops are damaged in six municipalities alone, says the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF). The data are gathered from three assessment flights covering Viqueque, Manatuto, Baucau, Manufahi, Ainaro, Covalima, Oecussi, Bobonaro and other districts between April 16 and 21.

“After the floods struck on April 4, many irrigation schemes were damaged, which is very devastating since most of our people are subsistence farmers. We are thankful for the U.N. World Food Programme to step in and support us in assessing these damages,” said Pedro Reis, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.

Starting next week, the U.N. World Food Programme, together with the The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), will conduct a crop and food security assessment mission to determine the overall impacts of the floods on the food security situation.

“The flights provided by Mission Aviation Fellowship have enabled the U.N. World Food Programme and the Government to assess damages within days instead of weeks if we are to do it the old way,” said Dageng Liu, the U.N. World Food Programme Timor-Leste Country Director. I am pleased to see the partnership has made a positive contribution towards the country’s recovery from the devastating floods,” he added.

Senior representatives from the Secretary of State for Civil Protection, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ministry of Planning and Territory, Ministry of Public Works and the UN have all been actively participating in the aerial assessments.

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