18 January 2011 One of the UN’s top humanitarian officials will visit Sri Lanka later this week to highlight the country’s humanitarian needs and to advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable.
The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Assistant Secretary-General Catherine Bragg, will be in Sri Lanka from 19 to 21 January, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a press release on Tuesday.
Her visit is expected to provide an opportunity to emphasize the commitment of the United Nations to the people of Sri Lanka in the midst of devastatingly heavy rainfall and to rally donors to support and expand ongoing national efforts to respond to the growing humanitarian needs.
In the last week, torrential rain has affected more than one million people in Sri Lanka’s eastern and central districts, forcing up to 370,000 people to flee their homes, and has claimed 43 lives to date.
This is in addition to the ongoing humanitarian concerns in the country’s north, where 20,000 internally displaced people remain in government-run camps since the end of the conflict in 2009, and those who have returned to their areas of origin are struggling to rebuild their lives.
“Humanitarian work is about reaching all people in need and in particular the most vulnerable, providing them with emergency assistance and supporting them through their most difficult time. This includes helping them recover and rebuild their lives,” said Ms. Bragg.
The United Nations and humanitarian partners are supporting the Government of Sri Lanka to provide critically needed emergency supplies such as safe drinking water, food, sanitation and emergency shelter, and will launch an appeal for emergency funds on 20 January.
Sri Lanka’s floods, which may have destroyed at least half of the season’s harvest in the eastern province, will also have a severe impact on agricultural livelihoods in a region still suffering the effects of the 2004 tsunami and recovering from the decades-long conflict.
During her mission, Ms. Bragg will visit the north of the country where thousands have returned following the end of the conflict, as well as visit the worst-flood affected areas in the east. She will also meet representatives from the Government, donors, and aid agencies.
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