Timor-Leste Red Cross appeals for funds to build resilience

Published: 25 July 2016 4:09 CET

By Sam Smith, in Timor-Leste

The Timor-Leste Red Cross is appealing for more funds to bring sustainable change to drought-hit communities.

Around 120,000 people have been severely affected by an El Niño-inflicted drought in the Asia Pacific nation.

An appeal for 800,000CHF to help 20,000 people across three of the worst affected districts is currently only 60 per cent funded.

The Timor-Leste Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), is providing urgent relief to affected communities.

However, if the appeal can reach 80 per cent coverage, the Timor-Leste Red Cross will be able to carry out more long-term resilience work as part of the drought response.

“This drought is a slow-onset emergency,” said Hermenegildo Rente, head of the Timor-Leste Red Cross disaster management team.

“While people are suffering due to a lack of water, there are chronic underlying issues that have made the situation worse.

“We’ve seen positive results in communities where we have been working to build resilience. What we want to do is to incorporate resilience building into our drought response.

“However, in order to do so, we simply need more financial support for the appeal.”

The UN envoy for climate and El Niño, ambassador Macharia Kamau, visited a rural community in Baucau district to hear about the drought and the work of Timor-Leste Red Cross volunteers.

Speaking to locals, ambassador Kamau said: “The [UN] secretary general has sent me around the world… to see how people are coping with problems of drought, problems of too much rain, problems of weather.

“We know it’s not possible to switch off the weather. Climate is here to stay. The question is: how are we going to respond to the issues of climate and weather events?

“How is your community going to be able to respond? Because droughts will come, floods will come… So how is the community going to organise itself to become more resilient?”

The Red Cross drought response is focusing on: food, nutrition and livelihoods; water and hygiene promotion; health; disaster risk reduction.

Harri Hiekkanen, from the IFRC, said: “Climate scientists are reporting that a La Niña weather event could take place later in the year.

“This could result in increased rainfall and flooding in drought-hit communities. Such events are not going to go away, in fact they are increasingly becoming the norm.

“This is why building resilience is so important. Lives will be saved and resources will not have to be spent on emergency operations.”