Press Release

UN Allocates US$2 Million to Respond to El Niño Impacts in Timor-Leste

02 February 2024

DILI, 02 Feb 2024 - The United Nations in Timor-Leste today announced the launch of emergency grant funding amounting to US$2 million. This funding aims to provide emergency food, water, nutrition, and agricultural assistance to people affected by El Niño in six municipalities across the country.

The rapid response grant is part of the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and will be implemented through three UN agencies: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP). "The grant will directly support 45,000 individuals and benefit an additional 241,000 people facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, water scarcity, and lean crop yields."

The grant covers six municipalities, ranging from Lautem in the east to Bobonaro on the western border, including Liquica, Ermera, Manufahi, and Covalima. These areas are among those with the highest rates of child stunting and food insecurity.

Over the next six months, the grant will provide essential foods, including rice, pulses, and oil, ensure access to clean water, and support farmers with drought-resistant seeds, livestock vaccines, and home gardening inputs. Over 1,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women will receive special nutritious food to prevent malnutrition. Additionally, 55,000 children aged 0-5 years will be screened, and those requiring treatment will receive care for severe acute malnutrition.

Announcing the grant, UN Resident Coordinator in Timor-Leste Funmi Balogun remarked, "The CERF grant embodies the United Nations contribution to Timor-Leste’s El Niño mitigation efforts. It is a strategic intervention designed to offer immediate relief to vulnerable households, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as farmers, ensuring they receive the necessary support to withstand the negative impacts of El Niño.”

As a small island nation, Timor-Leste relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture and imported food. Since September 2023, an ongoing El Niño weather event has led to drought-like conditions, delayed rainfall, and flash floods during the country’s main planting season. This disruption has affected crop production and agricultural income, significantly impacting food access and availability for many vulnerable people in rural areas.

The CERF allocation will not only support vital short-term interventions and highlight ongoing vulnerabilities in these municipalities but also align with the United Nations Strategic Development Cooperation Framework. It aims to support the Government of Timor-Leste in targeting their development activities more effectively and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the country.



Notes to Editors:

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is one of the fastest and most effective ways to ensure urgently needed humanitarian assistance reaches people caught up in crises. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005 as the global emergency response fund, CERF enables humanitarian responders to deliver life-saving assistance whenever and wherever crises strike.

In Timor-Leste, the CERF allocation aims to prevent or reduce the negative impacts of the anticipated drought due to El Niño and meet the most urgent anticipated food and WASH needs of communities projected to be most at-risk. The El Niño weather event is expected to significantly reduce rainfall from November 2023, with drought anticipated in early 2024. This will intensify food insecurity, acute water scarcity, and malnutrition, expected to worsen from March to April 2024. Even before the El Niño event, 44 percent of families already faced severe and moderate food insecurity, with 54 percent of households experiencing water scarcity at least once in a 6-month period. In some municipalities, this figure rises as high as 70 percent (2022 National Census; Food Security Assessment, WFP, 2023). With one of the highest rates of stunting in the world at 47 percent, and given the supply and demand dynamics affecting both availability and affordability of food, there is an urgent need to mitigate the complete deterioration of food security as El Niño is expected to exacerbate already concerning food security conditions.

For more information, contact:

- Imogen Wilson (WFP):

- Pedro Soares (FAO):

- Tapuwa Mutseyekwa (UNICEF):

- Ahmed Saleem (UN RCO):


Ahmed Saleem

Communications Officer
Tapuwa Loreen Mutseyekwa

Tapuwa Loreen Mutseyekwa

UNICEF Communication Specialist

UN entities involved in this initiative

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations Children’s Fund
World Food Programme

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