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Dili, March 9, 2022 – As the world marks International Women’s Day, celebrated globally on March 8, many women, children and other disadvantaged groups in Timor-Leste are yet to recover from the effects of recent floods amid COVID-19 challenges.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow which focuses on advancing gender equality in the context of the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction.

According to a recent UN Post Disaster Needs Assessment  about 56 percent of the health facilities in affected areas were damaged leading to partial or full disruption of the regular health services with loses in the health sector estimated to be approximately US$ 10.0 million.

Mrs. Maria Imaculada Guterres, Chief Executive Office at Alola Foundation, a non-profit organization in Timor-Leste that advocates for women economic empowerment notes that while women and marginalized groups are usually the hardest hit in disasters, they are often forgotten.

Dr. Domingas Angela Sarmento, Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Program Analyst at UNFPA at Don Bosco Centre, one of the floods evacuation center for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dili, Timor-Leste during a mobile maternity clinic facilitated by UNFPA in February 2022. ©UNFPA Timor-Leste

“Vulnerable groups are forgotten because of lack of awareness. We need to consider marginalized groups in recovery efforts during emergencies as they are part of the community and are often the most affected.” Said Mrs. Maria Imaculada Guterres.

“With the support of UNFPA, we have provided maternity packs to pregnant mothers during floods in evacuation centers and provided child friendly spaces for floods survivors.

“Apart from giving grants for survivors to start businesses for economic empowerment, we also promote awareness on disaster response and mitigation for better resilience,” Said Mrs. Maria Imaculada.

In emergencies, reproductive health needs for women and girls are often overlooked. Maintaining dignity and confidence helps women and girls to overcome hardships in emergencies.

Mrs. Alcinda Pinto Fernandes, a midwifery trainer and the Head of Midwifery Department at Instituto Superior Cristal (ISC) has been in the forefront in promoting gender equality among trainees and serving the needs of women and girls in emergencies.

“I have supported deliveries and witnessed pregnant women walking for long distances to access health facilities because those close to them were devastated by floods.

“I have included training on ending gender-based violence for midwives in my courses for early detection and to offer critical support during emergencies. It is during emergencies that cases of gender-based violence are more likely to occur,” said Mrs. Alcinda.

As noted by Mr. Bjorn Andersson, Regional Director, UNFPA Asia-Pacific, climate change is a multiplier of pre-existing forms of vulnerabilities and inequalities, including gender inequalities, often resulting in negative impacts for women and girls.

“Between 2010 and 2020, Asia and the Pacific accounted for three-quarters of the 122 million people that were affected by disasters. With Asia-Pacific being the most disaster-prone region in the world, we cannot ignore the disproportionate effects of climate change on women and girls,” said Mr. Bjorn Andersson.

“Climate-related emergencies also cause major disruptions in access to essential sexual and reproductive health services and life-saving medicines, including for maternal health care, contributing to a higher risk of maternal and newborn deaths,” adds Mr Bjorn.

Ms. Lorna Rolls, UNFPA Representative a.i. in Timor-Leste observes that the adverse impact of climate change in Timor Leste, particularly flooding and landslides in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, have further regressed collective efforts to achieve gender equality.

“Climate change puts the most vulnerable populations -- particularly women and girls, children, older persons and persons with disabilities -- at greater risk,” states Ms. Lorna Rolls.

“In Timor-Leste, UNFPA is actively engaged with strategic partners to place women, girls and young people at the center of disaster risk preparedness and humanitarian response, with intentions to strengthen resilience to future threats and uncertainties.

“Safeguarding the sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights and dignity of women and girls will go a long way in creating a better, more sustainable and equal future.”

For more information contact:

Suleiman Okoth

Communications and Programme Support Specialist
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Timor-Leste

UN House, Caicoli Street
Dili, Timor-Leste

Mobile: +670 75169796
WhatsApp: +254 780534026