U.S. Ambassador Kevin Blackstone’s Remarks on the Announcement of an Additional $900,000 in U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to Timor-Leste

Your Excellencies, Vice Minister of the Interior, Tony Armindo, Secretary of State for Civil Protection Martins, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.  It is my pleasure to join you to announce additional assistance from the U.S. people and their Government to partner with the Government of Timor-Leste on food recovery following the devastating April 4th flooding.

We are pleased to provide additional support, through USAID, to people in need, especially those in rural areas. This six-month, $900,000 Timor-Leste Cyclone Seroja Recovery activity will help the Government of Timor-Leste provide flood recovery support in Aileu, Baucau, and Manatuto municipalities. We have already provided some support to the people of Timor-Leste after the floods, but the Timorese Government identified additional needs, and there is more we can do for families—especially farmers in remote areas—to help make a fresh start for many vulnerable people.

We have worked in partnership to make sure this program will directly contribute to the Timor-Leste Government’s 2021 flood response plan strategic objective, namely, “To support the affected population to rebuild their lives and livelihoods in a safe and sustainable manner.” Our program activities also align with the UN joint appeal, which calls for farming supplies to restart livelihoods including meeting livelihood needs such as seeds and tools, restoring damaged kitchen or small gardens, and providing training in climate-sensitive farming practices.

We are planning to do just that: USAID and its partner, World Vision, will help 2,650 vulnerable families—that’s more than 15,000 people.  Most are smallholder farmers in rural areas. Catholic Relief Services, Caritas and Mercy Corps, will also join forces to bring needed assistance to the most vulnerable, including people with disabilities; women-led households, youth, pregnant and lactating women, and children cared for in affected households.

We are making plans to provide cash or vouchers to buy seeds for quick-growing vegetables in home gardens during the dry season, and also seeds for staple crops such as maize, rice, and beans.  These seeds are very important as farmers get ready for upcoming planting seasons. Farmers will also be able to buy necessary tools, such as shovels, watering cans, hoes, and seed containers.

Especially now during the days of the coronavirus pandemic, we know how important it is to be safe and healthy, have food, an income, and a hopeful perspective for the future.  U.S. contributions will help farmers make a decent living and also boost the local economy; participating vendors and suppliers will be important players in getting seeds to sprout and produce nutritious food that can once again fill local markets.

It is our privilege to support the resilient Timorese people in this latest partnership between our two countries.  Many thanks to all of the Government of Timor-Leste officials, USAID colleagues, and our resourceful implementing partner friends for making this program possible.  I look forward to hearing about—and seeing first-hand—the many great outcomes in the coming months.