Timor-Leste, a small island nation previously known as East Timor, is inarguably enduring a very difficult and trying year. The combination of devastating floods after Cyclone Seroja in 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic has left the nation desperately in need of assistance. Due to these disasters, the nation’s economy is currently struggling to find its way back to stability. Fortunately, on September 13, 2021, USAID announced plans to contribute an additional $1 million toward COVID-19 relief in Timor. This generous contribution will aid the goal of saving lives and the economy in Timor-Leste.
COVID-19 in Timor-Leste
Like any other nation, Timor-Leste has felt the inescapable effects of COVID-19. With a population of 1.3 million, the nation has witnessed 19,445 cases and 114 deaths as of September 28, 2021. Despite these numbers, as of September 28, 2021, Timor-Leste’s full vaccination rate stands at only about 20% of the population. This leaves an astounding number of people still unprotected.
The combination of flooding and COVID-19 has been catastrophic for Timor-Leste’s economy. In 2020, the nation’s economy endured a decline of 7%. Lockdowns and other restrictions amid COVID-19 led to significantly lower economic activity. While imports saw a reduction of approximately 19% “due to a slowdown in construction and travel services,” exports suffered even more, essentially declining by almost 50% “owing to limited travel services and lower coffee earnings.”
Because COVID-19 is a significant threat to the economy in Timor-Leste, increasing the country’s overall vaccination rate is crucial. Ending lockdowns and restoring normalcy will allow economic activity to return to pre-pandemic levels. Due to these harsh impacts, COVID-19 relief from organizations such as USAID is necessary for saving lives and the economy in Timor-Leste.
Assistance From USAID
USAID is a U.S. agency with a dedication to providing assistance during times of disaster at an international level. It works to eliminate poverty on a global scale, “strengthen democratic governance and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.”
Along with an existing amount of $1.6 million that USAID allocated for COVID-19 relief in Timor-Leste, USAID is now providing an additional $1 million in support of this cause. The amount of COVID-19 aid to Timor-Leste from the United States now totals $5 million.
This added funding will contribute to the expansion of vaccination programs by employing prominent organizations and “trusted leaders” to encourage Timorese citizens to receive vaccinations. These efforts specifically focus on underserved communities on the outskirts of Dili, the largest city in Timor-Leste.
Partnering with Timorese officials, USAID also intends to instruct healthcare employees within rural and agricultural communities on vaccine protocols such as proper storage and transportation manners. Furthermore, USAID aims for vaccine equity, ensuring equal opportunity for all citizens to receive the vaccine. Additionally, USAID will partner with the Ministry of Health in Timor-Leste to closely monitor COVID-19 statistics in order to determine the safest resolutions for the nation and its citizens in the future.
With USAID’s generous $1 million to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the future looks promising for Timor-Leste and its population despite facing a tumultuous year. Through the support of organizations such as USAID, hope exists for restoring normalcy in Timor-Leste.
Not only are expanded vaccination efforts helping save lives but these efforts are also restoring economic stability in the country. With continued international support, Timor-Leste can successfully rebuild and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
– River Simpson