Disaster READY: Inclusive disaster preparedness means better disaster preparedness - Timor-Leste

Over the past ten years Timor-Leste has experienced many disasters, including both political crises and natural events such as tropical cyclones, the most recent occurring in May 2019, when approximately 300 households were affected, around 100 people were displaced, and infrastructure damaged. Tragically, some lives were also lost. 

People experience disasters differently. Marginalised groups such as women, children, youth, people with disabilities and the elderly are often the worst affected, yet they can be the most excluded from disaster preparedness, response and recovery decision-making processes. Government support and coordination with and between humanitarian actors is required to facilitate the inclusion of these groups in disaster preparedness activities.

Located in Timor-Leste’s east, Lautem Municipality is exposed to strong winds, floods, landslides and long droughts. Local capacity and resources to prepare for these events can be limited.  

Plan International and ChildFund, in partnership with local NGO, Fraterna, are implementing Disaster Ready activities at the village level in Lautem. Socially-inclusive disaster risk assessments and plans have been carried out in five villages (including 21 sub-villages) with community participation. These villages are located in the northern coastal area most exposed to strong winds, floods and droughts and regular increased sea levels. A strong focus was placed on ensuring the voices of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups were heard. 

A total of 13 people with disabilities supported disaster risk assessment process in March and April 2019. They demonstrated valuable knowledge and experience in coping with disasters and a good understanding of the impacts of climate change. Their insights were a valuable input into the risk assessment process.

Above: Iliali village resident, Carlos, signs the consent interview and photo consent forms during the risk assessment consultations. Photo credit: Gaspar da Silva, ChildFund Timor-Leste.

Above: Iliali village resident, Carlos, signs the consent interview and photo consent forms during the risk assessment consultations. Photo credit: Gaspar da Silva, ChildFund Timor-Leste.

Carlos dos Santos Lay, from Ililai village in Lautem, is in his seventies and lives with a physical disability and impaired hearing. He shared his experience of disasters in the village.

Above: Carlos’ house is located on the banks of this river, which frequently floods. Photo credit: Gaspar da Silva, ChildFund Timor-Leste.

Above: Carlos’ house is located on the banks of this river, which frequently floods. Photo credit: Gaspar da Silva, ChildFund Timor-Leste.

 “ I was born with a disability. It became worse after I fell down up to three times when I was looking after my goats. In daily life, I cultivate corns, beans, cassava and other leafy greens and crops, as well as grazing my goats. I also collect firewood to sell in order to generate some income for my family. I have three children, one boy and two girls and my wife has a mental disability. My house is close to a river. We have experienced flooding twice in my house. First was on February 28, 2011.  The second was the worst time. That was on April 14, 2019, and the water level reached about 0.75 meters high and destroyed all our properties and gardens. I saw the water level become high, so we evacuated ourselves to a safe place nearby. Our community needs support to work on preventing flooding from the river as this happens every year during heavy rainfall.’  

Above: Ililia village resident, Ricardina, is interviewed during the disaster risk assessment process. Photo credit: Gaspar da Silva, ChildFund Timor-Leste.

Above: Ililia village resident, Ricardina, is interviewed during the disaster risk assessment process. Photo credit: Gaspar da Silva, ChildFund Timor-Leste.

Ricardina, also from Iliali village, is in her fifties and lives with a physical disability. She shared some of the insights she provided during the risk assessment process in her village.

“One time, it was late in the night, about 1am, when suddenly we heard a loud noise, like something strong hitting our house. Our children woke up and started crying; then we found out that a tree had fallen due to the strong wind. It is also common in our place for falling stones and landslides to happen from the hill. Related to the strong winds, the community should be pruning trees and knocking down dry coconuts and leaves,” Ricardina said.

Above: Jacinto, who lives with a disability and relies on crutches to move around, contributes to the disaster risk assessment in Maina I village. Photo credit: Gaspar da Silva, ChildFund Timor-Leste

Above: Jacinto, who lives with a disability and relies on crutches to move around, contributes to the disaster risk assessment in Maina I village. Photo credit: Gaspar da Silva, ChildFund Timor-Leste

Disaster READY partners have supported 21 sub-villages and 11 primary schools in Ililai, Equise, Parlamento, Com and Maina I villages in Lautem to improve their disaster preparedness activities. Maina I village resident, Jacinto, summarised his experience of the process.

It was a pleasure to participate in the process of community disaster risk reduction plan process through community risk assessment. It was my first time to participate in the village development plan. I was happy to share my experiences and comments relating to disaster.”