Church officials including Father Leandro Maria Alves (second right), executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Timor, monitor the condition of a flood-stricken area in Dili. (Photo: Father Leandro Maria Alves)
The Church in Timor-Leste is working with the government to help repair houses damaged by last month's flash floods that killed tens and forced thousands to flee.
Father Leandro Maria Alves, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Timor (CET), said the effort was being carried out directly by both the CET and other church institutions.
He said the CET did not build complete houses but helped buy building equipment.
"So far, according to the available funds, we can only target to allocate aid funds for around 15 houses," he told UCA News on May 5.
Meanwhile, the Church's social arm Caritas is targeting to help build 58 houses, of which 10 were heavily damaged, 23 were moderately damaged and 25 were slightly damaged.
Father Alves said the effort was part of the implementation of the bishops' commitment to accompany flood victims during their difficult time.
Five children whose mothers died will be sent to the church-owned orphanage
He said the CET was also still providing logistical assistance for the victims.
"Until now we have allocated around US$50,000, which has reached around 15,000 people," he said, adding that it has been used for food aid, clothing and other essentials.
Apart from CET funds, they have also obtained funds from donors, including Timorese who work abroad.
Meanwhile, Father Angelo Salshina from the social services division of Dili Archdiocese said they had provided special assistance for victims whose families had died.
“Currently, there are five children whose mothers died who will be sent to the church-owned orphanage. For the time being, they are living in a community of sisters in Dili," he said.
The Church's move goes hand in hand with the government's efforts to begin the recovery phase for residents' homes in addition to repairing badly damaged infrastructure.
Miguel Perreira de Carvalho, minister of state and administration, said 25,000 families are in need of home repairs out of 33,177 families affected by the disaster.
"Around 24,000 houses were slightly damaged, 553 were moderately damaged and 554 were severely damaged," he told journalists after meeting with Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak on May 4.
A total of 41 deaths have been recorded in Timor-Leste and 181 in Indonesia
He said President Francisco Guterres has approved a budget of $55 million for the repairs.
The disaster was triggered by tropical cyclone Seroja that struck the country and Indonesia’s predominantly Christian province of East Nusa Tenggara on Easter Sunday, resulting in flash floods and landslides.
It affected all 13 municipalities, with the capital Dili and the surrounding low-lying areas the worst affected. A total of 41 deaths have been recorded in Timor-Leste and 181 in Indonesia.
Most of those displaced in Dili are returning home, but according to the UN’s latest report, 3,925 people — or 799 households — are still at 25 evacuation facilities in the capital.
The disaster also damaged 2,163 hectares of agricultural land, which will impact food security during the next lean season.