15 September 2009
The humanitarian community in Sri Lanka has urged the United Nations to take stronger action to prevent the situation in Sri Lanka’s displacement camps from becoming a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
In a letter addressed to John Holmes, USG for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, aid agencies expressed concern for the safety, protection and survival of 260,000 people living in camps in Northern Sri Lanka.
There is increasing concern that approaching monsoon rains pose a serious risk to the health and security of the civilians in the camps and will place collective humanitarian efforts in jeopardy.
Comparatively light rains on 14 August left four zones of the Menik Farm camp in Vavuniya flooded, leaving hundreds of families without adequate shelter, water or hygiene facilities and increasing the risk of widespread waterborne diseases.
The Government of Sri Lanka has drawn up a special 180-day programme to resettle the displaced but has not yet shared it with the humanitarian community.
Last week, the Government decided to allow the release of families from the displacement camps to relatives who were willing to accommodate them in their homes.
The 26 year long conflict with the LTTE which ended in May this year has caused displacement of more than a quarter of a million people from the conflict areas. Over 260,000 people from the north are now housed in displacement camps posing a huge challenge to aid agencies already overstretched in their efforts to support basic needs.
Most of the camps now have postal, telecommunication and banking facilities and family visits are permitted but there are still restrictions on freedom of movement.
World Vision has been advocating for the return of the displaced as soon as possible, for special support for children addressing their physical, emotional and psychosocial needs and for trust-building programmes to bring fractured communities together.
World Vision is assisting those in the camps with water, food, shelter, non-food relief items as well as nutrition, education and psychosocial programmes for children.