The National Peace Council in a statement yesterday called for greater solidarity in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The full statement is as follows. The lifting of the day time curfew in all parts of the country from the beginning of this week reflects the government’s determination and confidence to restore normalcy to the lives of people.
This government decision will be welcomed especially by those whose very livelihoods depend on the economic and social transactions that normalcy makes possible. However, Health Services Director General Anil Jasinghe has warned that although the government had relaxed the curfew the situation is not normalized completely and curfews are continuing.
This suggests the need to continue with COVID-19 relief measures to assist those who continue to find it difficult to earn their livelihood and provide sustenance to their dependents. During the past two months, the National Peace Council with several other civil society organisations were part of a Civil Society Collective that operated with the support of the Presidential Task Force in the COVID-19 response operations.
This group was specifically mandated to provide humanitarian assistance to institutions that provide care to children, elders and the disabled. NPC deployed its country-wide network of 21 District level Inter-Religious Committees (DIRCs), 12 Local Inter-Religious Committees (LIRCs) and 11 Human Rights First Aid Centres (HRFACs) to provide humanitarian assistance to affected families and social welfare institutions in their areas.
Through these efforts 3,579 low income families, 5,680 persons including persons with disabilities and special needs residing in orphanages, old people’s homes and 440 families from marginalised community groups including persons with disabilities and members of female-headed households were supported up to 30 April.
These families consisted mainly of daily income earners with little or no savings. NPC also provided assistance to 42 institutions in Colombo and to 86 institutions in other parts of the country. Engaging in humanitarian activities helped strengthen local level voluntary bodies to further collaborate across ethnic and religious divides, and has also inspired them to engage in follow up activities on their own.
We are glad to note that government agencies were of support not only during the goods distribution process but also the beneficiary identification process helping to prioritise particular localities and communities.
Such cooperation was beneficial to maximize the impact of the efforts of the civil society organisations and to mitigate the suffering of those worst affected. Major dislocations have been caused to large segments of the population especially those workers who have lost their jobs to their workplaces either shutting down or having to downsize which has compelled them to return to their hometowns and villages.
This applies also to migrant workers. In time to come our society will be judged by how we treated the least fortunate among us including those waiting to return to Sri Lanka from abroad. We call for a larger societal commitment with leadership by the government to address the continuing humanitarian issues.