Photo: CVTL (Timor-Leste Red Cross)

Kuala Lumpur/Jakarta/Dili, 13 April 2021 – Urgent measures are needed to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, while providing relief to thousands of people hit by record floods and mudslides that have claimed more than 200 lives, according to authorities in eastern Indonesia and Timor Leste. 

Timor Leste is in the grip of a new wave of COVID-19 infections after a year of keeping the virus under control. The official number of cases has surged ten-fold from just over 100 to almost 1,000 in the past month, threatening the country’s fragile health system. 

More than 33,000 people have been directly affected by floods and landslides described by authorities as the worst to hit Timor Leste and parts of eastern Indonesia in more than 40 years. 

President of Timor-Leste Red Cross, Madalena da Costa Hanjan Soares, said: 

“It’s heartbreaking to see people making a choice between having a safe shelter, adequate food and water, or trying to avoid the spread of this deadly COVID-19 virus.  

“Our Timor Leste Red Cross volunteers have been specially trained and they’re doing everything possible to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. This is a race against time. The longer people have to stay in these temporary shelters, the higher the risk of a mass outbreak.” 

Red Cross rescue teams in Timor Leste and Indonesia have been searching for survivors, evacuating people to safety, and distributing relief including food, blankets, tarpaulins, clothing and hygiene supplies. Efforts have been ramped up to provide safe water for drinking and hygiene, to help prevent disease outbreaks. 

Indonesia is the second-worst affected country in Asia, with more than 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 recorded and more than 4,000 new infections a day. 

The Secretary General of Indonesian Red Cross, Sudirman Said, said: 

“The loss of life has been tragic and comes as a brutal blow to families already exhausted and overwhelmed by this COVID-19 pandemic. Our teams are working all hours to search for survivors, providing critical food, water and other relief while keeping people safe.”     

Jan Gelfand, Head of the Indonesia and Timor Leste Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: 

“COVID-19 is stretching the health systems in Indonesia and Timor Leste to breaking point. Further COVID-19 outbreaks or other deadly diseases, such as cholera, dysentery and dengue fever, could push them over the edge.  

“In many parts of the world, clean water, soap and face masks may seem like small things but if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that they save many lives. Every effort must be made to race these essentials to people so they can be protected after surviving these deadly floods.” 

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Media contacts

In Jakarta: Hamzah Ramadhan, +62 811 1161 193, hamzah.ramadhan@ifrc.org  

In Kuala Lumpur:Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, antony.balmain@ifrc.org 

Ellie van Baaren, +64 21 774 831, ellie.vanbaaren@ifrc.org