Imagine that you took the leap to relocate your family from a life of subsistence farming on the hillsides of rural Timor-Leste to the nation’s capital, Dili, in pursuit of better opportunities for your children. Education, employment and access to key services are all part of the attraction. Unable to find affordable accommodation in town, you take up residence in a community of informal dwellings in the marshy flats of Tasi Tolu, on the western fringe of the city. Hopefully ‘just for a while’, you think, until you can find work and secure something better.
Then the worst flood in almost 50 years strikes.
The lakes of Tasi Tolu are surrounded by steep hills, and they filled up like a bathtub. The communities living at the foot of the hills, on the edge of the lakes, had nowhere to run. Even now, ten days on, many of these communities are still partially submerged and only accessible by boat.
Thankfully the predicament of these communities has not escaped attention. They’re being well served by government assistance and health partners.
A team of our own Maluk Timor doctors (Dr Lois and Dr Joaquina) made the trip across the water on Monday to provide basic medical care. It’s just one example of what we’re doing to try to meet the immediate needs of those in crisis.
Meanwhile, in one of the largest evacuation centres in Dili at Don Bosco, people are bravely preparing to rebuild their lives. Some have already moved back to restore what is left of their homes, but it’s difficult to go back empty handed. We’re supplying mattresses and cooking equipment to assist people trying to start over.
Our staff are also conducting home assessments with the Ministry of the Interior to accelerate repatriation of people to secure housing. Those with nowhere to go will be in the evacuation centres a little longer.
Today our team is heading back to Don Bosco to run children’s activities and hopefully bring smiles where there has been so many tears.
There are smiles at the HIV Centre at Maloa Health Post. Inundated on Easter Sunday, the centre is reopening for clinical work today! This is the culmination of a great team effort: cleaning and repairing the damaged site.
We feel incredibly fortunate to be in a position to help those who are worst affected, and to have so many generous supporters urging us on. We have this window of opportunity to move quickly in restoration so that communities can once again take up their defence against the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will continue to stand with the Timorese people, and we thank you for standing with us.