Sri Lanka flood victims’ coping capacity overstressed - UN official

Monday, 21 February 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Geneva: After two waves of floods devastated Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern regions the coping capacity of the flood-affected people has been overstressed, a United Nation official said Friday addressing the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) press conference in Geneva.

The people in these regions have already suffered due to a devastating tsunami in 2004 and a brutal war, Neil Buhne, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sri Lanka said on his last day as the coordinator for the island.

The official said there is major damage to agriculture in the region with 100% of rice crop in Batticaloa and about 40% in Trincomalee being damaged by the floods as the farmers were getting to ready for the harvest.

“A lot of farmers in these areas are people who were living on the edge, had borrowed money hoping for a good harvest crop and will now have no income,” Buhne said.

He said a large number of wells have been contaminated and irrigation structure had been seriously damaged in the flooded areas.

“There is very serious damage to the physical infrastructure. The irrigation system might not be able to work for quite some time in many areas,” he said.

The UN official drew attention to the flash appeal for US$ 51 million that was launched during the visit of the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg after the first round of floods in January.

The rains since late December left over a million people affected and the second deluge that came in early January affected over 1.2 million people. The two waves of floods killed at least 70 people.

The UN official said the flash appeal is to be reviewed at the end of this month to assess the damage. Currently the appeal is only 24 percent funded having received only US$ 12 million.

The outgoing resident coordinator said the Sri Lankan government had appointed a task force to assess damages and provide immediate relief to the flood-affected. The government has allocated US$ 300 million (Rs. 33 billion) for this purpose.

US$ 280 million needed for Sri Lanka’s Northern recovery – UN

Geneva: Recovery programmes slated for the war-affected Northern Sri Lanka need US$ 280 million; a joint action plan lunched by the United Nations along with the Sri Lankan government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) states.

Describing the UN’s humanitarian efforts in Sri Lanka at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) press conference on Friday at Geneva, the outgoing UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne said there is a huge amount of work that needs to be done in rebuilding houses, schools, government buildings and other infrastructure in the devastated region.

The “Joint Plan for Assistance for the Northern Province (JPA)” lunched on 1 February, outlines the key needs for the next 12 months, and identifies priority activities and strategies to be undertaken during 2011, according to the UN official.

The JPA provides a framework for meeting immediate needs while linking interventions to the early - and medium-term recovery efforts including the priorities of building shelters and homes, supporting agriculture, food security and livelihood recovery. The JPA has planned recovery programmes for 2011 at a cost of US$ 280 million.

Buhne said that there are about 18,000 war-displaced currently remaining in the welfare centres while another 5,000 ex-combatants are in government detention centres.

The displaced in welfare centres are mostly from the Mullaitivu District where the demining is still in progress and the official said he expects all of them to be resettled by mid-year.

The UN official said there are only a few hardcore ex-LTTE combatants waiting for legal proceedings and most of the 5,000 detainees are undergoing government-run rehabilitation programmes. When asked Buhne said the UN or Red Cross does not have access to the detainees while they are in the detention centres but UN provides assistance for them to reintegrate into the society once they are released.

The UN coordinator commended the steps taken by the government to reconstruct the Northern Province and said there needs to be a “very deliberate” programme to foster reconciliation and pointed out the need for large community programmes.