Date published: 18 May 2009
While Sri Lanka’s conventional war is over the real challenge now is to help create lasting peace and rebuild the lives of thousands of people displaced by the conflict says World Vision.
“We must help foster an environment where fractured and displaced communities can heal and have a real chance at creating a future for themselves and their children,” said Suresh Bartlett, Director of World Vision in Sri Lanka.
There are four issues that must be tackled to put Sri Lanka’s children on the road to recovery.
1. Get people back to their original land and homes as quickly as possible and then provide them the support they need to get back to work.
Bartlett says: “There are now almost 250,000 people in the displacement camps, among them an estimated 80,000 children. These people have been displaced numerous times and in reality the camps are yet another displacement, albeit one where they are safer and having their basic needs met. It is important to get people home as quickly as possible so they can feel a sense of ownership over their own lives, recover their livelihoods and create an environment where their children feel safe.”
2. Provide special support for children that address their physical, psychosocial, emotional and educational needs. Many tens of thousands of children have been severely emotionally, physically and mentally affected by the months of extremely violent close quarter conflict. They have suffered a lack of health care, shelter and food. Aid agencies and government ministries need to identify and help children who have suffered trauma and distress.
Bartlett says: “Getting children back home and then back to school will have the biggest impact for good on their health. Children need to be back in communities and classes where neighbours and teachers can help care for them and restore a sense of normalcy. Hundreds of schools need to be rebuilt, repaired, re-staffed and restocked with equipment.”
3. Trust building programmes are essential to create an environment of peace. Many Tamils who come from the area once controlled by the LTTE may never have had Sinhalese neighbours or friends. Likewise those from the south may be suspicious of northern Tamils. A large percentage of those from Colombo or the South have never been to the conflicted North.
Bartlett says: “We need trust-building programmes to break down years of prejudice. It is especially important to focus on the next generation – the children. We would advocate for trust-building programmes that bring Tamil and Sinhala communities together, especially those who once lived along what was the Line of Control that divided the country.”
4. Financial support from the international community will be essential to help with the recovery work rebuilding the lives of thousands of people displaced by the conflict.