Sri Lanka: Emergency Response
The humanitarian aid operation after the tsunami in 2005 triggered People in Need’s operations in Sri Lanka. PIN’s prime target area was an unstable region in the North-East of the island where the conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the government forces threatened to resurface. The threat became a reality in July 2006, when fighting recommenced.
Alongside responding to immediate humanitarian needs and reconstruction of infrastructure after the tsunami and armed conflict, PIN focused on recovery of livelihoods of affected families and communities.
Our humanitarian interventions of the past years in reaction to the return of the internally displaced population after the end of the armed conflict have a similar focus. Over the course of 2010 and 2011, the majority of displaced people returned to their destroyed homes and found it difficult to restart their original livelihoods without any external assistance. The assistance provided by PIN ranged from owner driven repair of partly damaged houses to cash transfers through cash for work or cash grant schemes that enabled the people earn income to cover their immediate food and other needs.
Humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka provided by PIN also reacted to localized events and incidents such as floods in the Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts in early 2011.
Improving Basic Infrastructure of Communities Affected by Floods
On 15 May 2016, Sri Lanka was hit by a severe tropical storm Roanu that caused widespread flooding and landslides in 22 of the 25 districts in the country, destroying homes and submerging entire villages and urban neighbourhoods. According to the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Centre, more than 300,000 people have been affected. These were reportedly the worst floods in 25 years. Colombo District was the worst affected district in the country with 190,349 people affected by the floods. This is mostly as a result of large numbers of people living on reclaimed, marsh land that is highly susceptible to flooding.
One of the most affected Divisional Secretariat (DS) divisions in Colombo District was Kolonnawa. The main reasons for such heavy damage was that this is a low lying area located adjacent to Kelani River and flood water remained without receding for over one week. There are 46 Grama Diladhari (GN) Divisions in Kolonnawa DS Division, of which 39 had the worst experience of the floods and damages to infrastructure, properties and people’s livelihoods. It was reported that about 18,756 families or 94,151 individuals were affected.
Sevanatha, PIN’s local implementing partner, has carried out detailed needs assessment of 300 families affected by flooding in two GN divisions – Sedawatta and Weeramal Mawatha as well as supported Housing Authority to carry out house damage assessment in Kolonnawa DS Division. Some of the priority needs identified by these families are rehabilitation of damaged houses, sanitation facilities, drains, drainage networks and culverts, and decreasing the vulnerability of communities to future disasters.
The course of action taken by PIN and Sevanatha on the basis of affected people’s needs is repair of local infrastructure and other assets in the flood-affected neighbourhoods of Kolonnawa DS Division in a disaster resilient manner which will lead to rehabilitation of flood-affected communities and building them more resilient towards future disasters.
In cooperation with Sevenantha, PIN has been working on improvement of community infrastructure in 2 GN Divisions (this includes rehabilitation and re-/construction of proper drains and drainage systems, retaining or protection wall using gabion methods in such situations and raise the level of footpaths, culverts), rehabilitation and/or upgrade of sanitation facilities of at least 30 most vulnerable households (such as female headed households, people with disabilities and the elderly, low income families with large number of children)and related promotion of such improved sanitation facilities which have a septic tank, with a sealed pit, so water does not go inside the pit during flooding.
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Recovery of Flood-affected Areas
Within the framework of two projects, People in Need engaged the inhabitants of the flood-affected regions to the cash-for-work scheme which provided them with the opportunity to gain immediate income. Manual works such as cleaning of drainage canals, recovery of access roads or overall cleanup of public places generate income which serves to cover the most immediate needs of the families as well as the recovery of important community infrastructure which in the long-term horizon will help the people to renew their livelihoods.
In November 2010 excessive rains and consequent floods affected freshly returned people, displaced by the armed conflict, in Kilinochchi and Mullativu District. PIN provided these returnees immediate humanitarian aid.
Recovery of War-affected Areas in the North
In Vavuniya and Kilinochchi Districts of Northern Province, People in Need assisted with owner-driven repair of houses damaged during the armed conflict between Tamil Tigers and the military forces of the Government of Sri Lanka.
Strong emphasis was put on active participation by beneficiaries who conducted and directed the construction works completely autonomously. People in Need provided technical assistance and necessary construction materials and financially supported skilled workers.
Humanitarian Assistance to Internally Displaced People after the Last Phase of War
The last phase of war caused displacement of approximately 300,000 people who had to stay in IDP camps. In reaction to this critical situation, People in Need assisted with construction and provision of emergency facilities to the IDP camp in Pulmoddai in Trincomalee District to secure more dignified living conditions for the IDPs housed there.
PIN constructed temporary shelters, emergency latrines and drainage system. PIN also provided safe drinking water and distributed hygiene kits.
Recovery of War-affected Areas in the East
Between 2007-2009, People in Need provided assistance to hundreds of families with owner-driven repair of partly-damaged houses in Trincomalee District where the armed conflict between the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) and the government resumed even before recovery from the destructive tsunami had been completed. The families carried out the repars themselves while People in Need provided them with necessary construction materials and finances for skilled workers which contributed to better sustainability of the project’s outputs.
In several villages affected by the fighting, People in Need assisted in rehabilitation water tanks, wells, latrines, roads and community centres. The reconstruction of the marketplace was a comprehensive, multi-purpose project: the marketplace not only supports economic development, but it also serves as a place of interaction between different ethnic groups and contributes to reconciliation and stabilization of fragile relations among local communities.
People in Need also participated in the recovery of productive infrastructure and livelihoods, such as an ice factory, rice mills, bicycle repair shops, fishing storage houses and bakeries.
Recovery of the East Coast after Tsunami
Following the tsunami disaster, People in Need’s main target area became Trincomalee District in Eastern Province, which apart from the tsunami bore scars of the protracted civil war. Immediately after the tsunami, People in Need provided food and non-food relief items (NFRIs) to almost 11 thousand people during the first weeks after the catastrophe.
After the most critical phase had passed, the primary task was to help the people to cope with the consequences of the catastrophe and to work on improving their living conditions. People in Need built temporary shelters, provided basic equipment to households and contributed to the resumption of electricity distribution as well as cleaning up waste and debris. PIN also focused on establishing child friendly spaces to prevent and deal with traumas and psychological problems of displaced children.
It was very important to help the people affected by the war to return back to their normal lives as soon as possible, so they could return to work and take care of their lives themselves. People in Need therefore supported people who lost their livelihoods with provision of livelihoods assets, small grants and necessary training.
People in Need also conducted numerous construction projects such as reconstruction and construction of schools and pre-schools, construction of 150 houses in the relocated village of Naduoothu and 80 family houses in Annal Nagar village, sources of drinking water and latrines, village markets, fishing storage houses etc.