UN Deputy humanitarian chief visits North

Saturday, 22 January 2011 00:34 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

(Colombo/New York): On the second day of her three-day visit to Sri Lanka, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg travelled across the country to get a better understanding of humanitarian priorities.

First, Bragg travelled north to Theravil in Mullaitivu District, which has only recently been cleared of landmines, allowing its former residents to return and begin rebuilding their lives.

A decades-long conflict in northern Sri Lanka ended in May 2009 and saw more than 300,000 people displaced and housed in Government-run camps. Currently only 20,000 people remain in the camps, unable to return home due to the risk of land mines and lack of basic services.

Today, there are 263 families who have returned to Theravil, which was one of the last battlegrounds in the conflict, after their release from the largest camp, Menik Farm in November 2010.

“Significant progress has been made in meeting the needs of the IDPs and promoting return processes. However, those who have been released now face a daily struggle to rebuild their lives, and have to start from scratch,” said Bragg. “There is nothing left. They are going to need schools and teachers, hospitals and doctors, and basic social services.”

During the visit, aid organisations expressed their wish to be able to help provide the sort of support needed to address the range of vulnerabilities that people face whether physical, social or psychosocial.

“We are here to support them. It is good that the Government has invested significantly in infrastructure, but this should be combined with investing in the people as well.” said Bragg.

Bragg then travelled to Batticaloa in the flood-ravaged eastern province where she heard from local government and aid organisations about the extent of the damage especially on the agricultural sector, which has lost 80 per cent of this season’s harvest in some places.

Bragg wrapped up her second day by launching the Flash Appeal for the floods, which is appealing for $51 million dollars to meet the urgent needs of one million people for the next six months.

During the launch, Bragg announced that a $6-million grant from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has been allocated to jump start key life-saving projects listed in the Flash Appeal.