UN disaster chief commends efforts to tackle disasters

22 Nov 2011

imageSpecial Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström receives a traditional Timorese welcome on her arrival in Lautem district, in the east of the country. Photo Sandra Magno/UNDP TL.

Dili - Timor-Leste continues to invest in measures to minimise the effects of disasters, the United Nations top disaster risk reduction official said during a three day visit to the country.

“Timor-Leste is working hard to respond more effectively to natural disasters,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström.

Timor-Leste is prone to floods and landslides and prolonged dry spells, which can trigger insect infestations and diseases and cause food insecurity.

The northern and southern coasts are also high-risk areas for earthquake hazards and associated tsunamis.

In the last decade alone, the country suffered from 470 disaster events.

“There is a system being built now in Timor-Leste to reduce disaster risks through coordinated emergency response, legislation, and planning for capacity strengthening,” said Ms Wahlström.

“A cohesive strategy that focuses on prevention as well as response will help Timor-Leste to protect its development gains and achieve the set targets.”

While in Timor-Leste, the UN chief met with representatives of the Government, the National Parliamentary Committee for Forestry, Natural Resources and Environment, non-governmental organisations, academia, and the private sector.

Ms Wahlström also visited a community in Lautem district, where disaster risk management efforts are proving successful.

“I have seen resilience being built in the community we visited,” she said.

“There is an early warning system and the district administration is working to respond effectively and to maintain livelihoods during flood, drought and landslide.

“It is very important that more communities are supported in similar initiatives to be safer against disasters.”