On the morning of 13 March, 2020, a light rain began to fall in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. People moved around as usual and were busy with their routine activities. The rain continued to fall, and the clouds covered the normally bright sun. The rainfall increased heavily in the afternoon, and the rivers started to flow in torrents from the mountains down into the sea.
As the floodwaters rose and rose, people started running and took refuge in neighbouring or family houses that were safe from the flood. Some remained at home to try to drain the water from inside their house.
“Nearly 6,000 households were affected by the flooding,” said Abilio Marques, World Vision’s emergency response focal point. “People with the most damage were living nearest to the riverbanks, foreshores, and some of their houses were destroyed as the ground moved. Public infrastructure was also destroyed.”
“Children and mothers were the most vulnerable affected by the flood as it was hard for them to evacuate themselves from rising water. Families lost access to clean water, lost household items, food and clothes, and children lost school materials,” he said.
World Vision, along with Australian Humanitarian Partnership NGO partners, supported the Timor-Leste Government to respond to the flooding. World Vision supported an immediate assessment to determine affected households, then distributed 600 kitchen kits, containing basic utilities like plates, cups, cutlery and a jerry can.
Abilio said his team faced some challenges assembling and packing the items due to COVID-19. “We faced some problems during the emergency response, as within days of the flooding, the Government announced a State of Emergency for COVID-19. Supplier offices were closed and there was no movement on the roads. However, the team was still dedicated to support these vulnerable people, even in lockdown. During the packing process, we maintained social distancing, used a mask and washed hands regularly,” he said.
The Australian Humanitarian Partnership Disaster READY Dili flood response was supported by the Australian Government.