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China-UNICEF partnership tackles ongoing recovery efforts in Timor-Leste

Existing vulnerabilities make flood recovery a long-term process in the small island nation.

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The Chinese government and UNICEF have launched a US$1.5 million project to help communities impacted by floods in Timor-Leste, the UN agency says.

The project will provide access to quality nutrition, education, drinking water and sanitation to 146,000 people in Timor-Leste affected by severe flooding in recent years. The most devastating flood in recent memory hit in April 2021, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, affecting all 13 municipalities, especially the capital of Dili and surrounding low-lying areas.

Over 4,000 houses were destroyed and 48 people lost their lives after heavy rains triggered flash floods and landslides across the country. Pandemic lockdown measures and a malfunctioning early alert system left many citizens unprepared to face what was called the worst flood in half a century. More than 30,367 households were impacted. 

[See more: Timor-Leste approves the strengthening of bilateral relations with China]

Although the flood occurred nearly three years ago, a “long-term response” is required for communities who are “already struggling with multiple vulnerabilities in health nutrition, education and water and sanitation, even before the floods hit,” says Bilal Zeb Aurang Durrani, UNICEF country representative for Timor-Leste.

The new support from China will focus on providing 83,000 children with critical nutrition, 34,000 women with nutrition and breastfeeding counselling, and 2,000 households with improved water and sanitation in the municipalities of Dili, Ainaro, Ermera and Baucau. Improved education environments in 34 schools in Dili, Baucau, Lautem, Liquica and Manufahi will reach 24,449 children.

Support will also go toward establishing disaster risk reduction mechanisms to improve resilience to future disasters. Timor-Leste, like many countries in the East Asia and Pacific regions, faces multiple, often overlapping, severe weather events and environmental hazards, made worse by climate change.

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