With a grant from the European Union of USD 1.3 million, five international NGOs have teamed up with local civil society organisations (CSOs) to provide support to the Timorese population, in particular to vulnerable households in eight municipalities
CARE, Oxfam, Plan International, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision are working together with a range of Timorese organisations to help 32,000 people overcome the challenges that CVID-19 had brought. They are targeting in particular women, people with disabilities, health workers, farmers, community leaders, and savings and loan group members in Dili, Aileu, Baucau, Viqueque, Liquica, Ermera, Covalima and Oecussi.
The EU-supported initiative aims to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable families in remote areas of Timor-Leste by providing handwashing facilities and water system upgrades at health and community institutions, including churches. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene kits will be distributed to health and community workers.
The initiative will also help farmers to grow and store their products. To ensure food security, support will be given to local vendors who purchase produce from farmers, thus reinforcing the active link between the farmers and markets. In addition, the project will provide be technical assistance to strengthen village savings and loan groups.
The European Union Ambassador to Timor-Leste Andrew Jacobs said: “The European Union is pleased to have been able to support Timor-Leste’s response to Coronavirus in a number of ways, and today I am very proud to support this initiative which targets the poorest families, providing economic support and delivering health services to vulnerable people, including those with disabilities.”
As cases of gender-based violence (GBV) and harassment may increase in the pandemic setting, the project will also be promoting referral systems for GBV cases, and using radio and social media to advocate for positive parenting and prevention of domestic violence in the household.
“As families adapt to the situation and reduced mobility may prevent vulnerable women from leaving home, we are particularly concerned for those who need to be able to access services provided for survivors of violence” says Peter Goodfellow, Country Director for CARE International in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste has had 24 cases and zero deaths recorded but if a significant spike in cases occurs this could potentially challenge the health system. To address the gaps in information dissemination, the project will boost prevention awareness outreach and messaging in communities through support to community health volunteers, radio broadcasting, and social media. There will be a partnership with the local media in promoting factual COVID-19 information to counter fake news.
“COVID-19 is having an impact on people’s lives in Timor-Leste in livelihoods and food security, and communities remain vulnerable without adequate access to hygiene facilities. Through this collaboration we are strengthening Timor-Leste’s health sector, and supporting local civil society to respond to local community’s needs” says Oxfam in Timor-Leste’s Country Director, Kathy Richards.
The Government has recently extended the state of emergency that has involved movement restriction, surveillance and compulsory 14-day quarantine for those possibly exposed to the virus. Economic impact has been considerable and the agriculture sector is one of the most affected.
In Timor-Leste, the European Union response to COVID19 carries a budget of approximately USD 3.5 Million. This includes both new projects such as the current one, reorientations of existing programmes in order to make them better address the COVID 19 crisis, as well as part of a regional project implemented through WHO. The support aims to reinforce the Timorese health sector, mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis effect on the economy, and mitigate the social impacts on the population, notably on the most vulnerable segments of society (women and girls, children, elderly people, disabled persons). Finally, in response to the global Covid 19 Pandemic, the EU has exceptionally waived the requirements for indicators that had not been met under the Budget Support programmes for a total of 1.35 mln. This means that these funds which would otherwise not have been disbursed will now be made available to provide macroeconomic support to Timor-Leste.