Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable people across the country have been facing multiple challenges, including the loss of income. This has led to a cascading socio-economic impact on communities at the grassroots level in Sri Lanka, upending their daily lives.
Following a request made by the District Secretary in Anuradhapura in the North-Central Province of Sri Lanka, and in line with the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) global mandate to support the better management of migration in Member States, IOM Sri Lanka stepped forward to support the affected population in the district, supported by the Australian Government.
On 24 August the IOM in Sri Lanka organised a distribution of essential food and non-food items (NFI) kits to affected families in Anuradhapura. Many of the returnee migrants have been adversely affected by the pandemic due to loss of livelihoods and struggle to provide for their families as a result. The kits included dry food rations, baby items, and hygiene items.
Over 200 migrant returnees, their families, and other vulnerable members of the community were identified to receive the items by the Anuradhapura District Secretariat. Additionally, eight shelters and safe houses for orphans, differently abled persons, elders and victims of sexual and gender-based violence will also be assisted through the project.
In total, over 800 individual beneficiaries will receive assistance. “Australia is pleased to support this important initiative to ensure the food and health needs of migrant returnees and their communities in Anuradhapura are met during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic”, said Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka David Holly.
This vital humanitarian assistance was made possible with the support of the Government of Australia, and coordinated through the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s office in Sri Lanka. The project is planned and implemented with the close coordination and collaboration of the District Secretariat of Anuradhapura, and SAFE Foundation functions as the ground level implementing partner. IOM’s response to support vulnerable communities complements the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to alleviate the needs of grassroots communities.
Speaking at the event, the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer, stated, “The UN has been working very closely with the Government of Sri Lanka to address the COVID-19 crisis, responding both to the immediate health crisis and the socioeconomic recovery process.” Ms. Singer added that the UN’s efforts have primarily included technical expertise to support Sri Lankan authorities battle the consequences of the pandemic. “With funding from the Australian Government, we are also able to provide this much needed assistance to migrant returnees who have been disproportionality impacted by the global crisis,” she added.
R.M Wanninayaka - Anuradhapura District Secretary thanked the donors and contributing agencies for their generous support towards the vulnerable communities.
Also speaking at the event, IOM Chief of Mission to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Sarat Dash said, “IOM is delighted with the cooperation from the district administration as well as the Australian Government that helped us to provide immediate assistance to 800 people. IOM’s aspiration now is to see how we can collectively facilitate the successful economic reintegration of thousands of returnee migrants and enhancing their skills, and preparing them for better opportunities before the time for their re-migration.”
Since 2002, IOM has supported the GoSL’s efforts in managing migration in a humane, orderly and dignified manner in the country. In continuation of the support to the GoSL, IOM has initiated several COVID-19 related activities to assist migrants, returnees, their communities, and vulnerable sectors to support the government in the welfare of migrants.
IOM’s ongoing COVID-19 related assistance projects in Sri Lanka include promoting health awareness and border preparedness responses in line with the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plans of the Government of Sri Lanka.