UN ramping up aid to thousands of flood-affected Sri Lankans

UN agencies assisting in flood relief efforts in Sri Lanka

13 January 2011 – United Nations agencies in Sri Lanka are stepping up efforts in cooperation with the Government to help the over one million people affected by the severe floods that have struck the South Asian nation in recent weeks.

The world body will launch an appeal for emergency funds in the coming weeks, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today. Meanwhile, the UN team in the country is supporting the Sri Lankan authorities in several ways to respond to growing humanitarian needs.

“We are helping the Government to collect information on needs, which will be compiled into a flash appeal and to rally donors to support and expand ongoing national efforts to respond to important needs in flood-affected areas,” said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne.

“We share the strong concern over the immediate requirements of over one million affected, especially the most vulnerable including children,” he said, adding that the UN will also look at the longer-term effects from damage to agriculture, infrastructure and housing.

According to the national Disaster Management Centre (DMC), over 1,081,800 people have been affected by the floods, with 23 deaths and 36 injured, as of today.

The disaster has also displaced nearly 325,350 people, who are now in 591 temporary relocation centres in ten districts, with the highest number in the eastern district of Batticaloa.

The UN is supporting the DMC-led rapid assessment of the flood and landslide situation in 14 affected districts to determine the extent and location of damages, as well as immediate relief needs. While it has been difficult to access some of the flood-affected areas, it has been ascertained that the main needs right now are for non-food items and drinking water.

UN agencies are continuing to responding with a wide range of supplies, including emergency food assistance for some 400,000 people provided by the World Food Programme (WFP).

In addition, seven trucks filled with supplies from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have arrived in eastern Sri Lanka, as part of the wider effort to assist affected communities.

“In recent years these communities have suffered major blows; many of them have been caught up in years of conflict, in the wake of the 2004 tsunami and now these floods,” noted Reza Hossaini, UNICEF Representative in Sri Lanka.

“Many families were only just returning home after years of displacement. They were rebuilding their lives, children were returning to their community schools and now they all face this latest severe setback.”

As part of its immediate relief assistance, UNICEF has made available 50 water tanks, water tablets able to purify two million litres of water, 7,000 tarpaulins, bleaching powder, 7,000 sleeping mats, 3,000 buckets, 30,000 bars of soap and cooking pots.

The World Health Organization (WHO), for its part, is funding the operation of mobile medical clinics by the Ministry of Health. It has also supplied 60,000 water purification tablets and is working with the Ministry medical teams to control possible outbreak of disease in affected areas.


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