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Timor-Leste issues food security alert following El Nino-induced drought warning

DILI – The Government of Timor-Leste, in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has issued an urgent Food Security Alert, mapping the increased risks of food shortages, exacerbated by El Niño against the backdrop of the country's dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

Amid escalating levels of food insecurity, Timor-Leste is already showing clear signs of drought in twelve out of fourteen municipalities based on the Combined Drought Index, produced by the Government of Timor-Leste and FAO. In addition, the country is facing the looming possibility of an extended El Niño-induced dry season and predictions of sustained low rainfall into early 2024, all of which will severely impact agriculture.

“Current levels of food insecurity in Timor-Leste already impact 22 per cent of the population, affecting 300,000 people. This, compounded by successive years of flooding, the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating food prices both domestically and globally, means that the anticipated impacts of El Niño could plunge the population deeper into the throes of hunger. The time to act and mitigate the impacts of El Niño is now,” said Alba Cecilia Garzon Olivares, WFP Representative and Country Director.

The last El Niño drought impacted more than a third of all households, with three in ten people in the country suffering food shortages between 2015-2016.

The October Alert outlines actions being taken to prepare communities across the country and includes the most up to date analysis and data on at risk municipalities, with Oecusse, Viqueque and Liquica currently assessed as at the highest risk level.

To date early warning messages have been provided to farmers by the Civil Protection Authority and FAO, who will lead training to manage agricultural droughts and produce better agricultural outcomes in municipalities in the coming months.

The alert sets out a series of immediate and medium-term mitigation actions including the urgent need for operational readiness to procure rice at scale to augment the national grain reserve, to ensure safe storage and prepositioning of food, and to support farmers with agriculture and water enhancements.

Note to the editor:

The October 2023 Food Security Alert Special Bulletin Timor-Leste can be downloaded from our website at the following link

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.


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Imogen Wilson, Communications Officer, +670 77964914