Sri Lanka: UN, partners to launch $51 million flash appeal for flood victims

Flood victims in Sri Lanka's Ampara district carry home food rations distributed by WFP

19 January 2011 – With humanitarian organizations in Sri Lanka warning that their resources to respond to the flood crisis there are exhausted, the United Nations and its partners are seeking $51 million to help more than one million people get through the next six months.

“I hope donors will respond rapidly to help the survivors of these devastating floods, which have hit many people who were desperately vulnerable to begin with,” the UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Catherine Bragg, said today on a visit to the Indian Ocean island, where she will officially launch the flash appeal in Colombo, the capital, tomorrow. A flash appeal is a unified request for funds by UN agencies responding to a sudden humanitarian crisis.

“As the longer-term economic impact is also bound to be serious, assistance now will be crucial for the recovery effort that must follow,” she added of the devastating rains, which have been linked to the La Niña weather phenomenon, a periodic cooling of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

The UN World Meteorological Organization has said that the current floods in Sri Lanka might be considered to be “rather atypical of La Niña impacts and could be due to other regional factors – however a La Niña influence on the flooding should not be ruled out.”

In eastern and central Sri Lanka, the flooding – which reached an almost 100 year high – has driven more than 360,000 people from their homes, killed 43 people, and totally destroyed some 6,000 homes and another 23,000 partially. People are now returning to their homes, but 10,000 people still remain displaced in temporary relocation centres.

Agricultural production is the main source of livelihood in the affected regions and this season’s rice harvest is now severely damaged, leading to increased food insecurity.

“These floods are an enormous and tragic setback for a community that is slowly rebuilding their lives following the 2004 tsunami and recovering from the decades-long conflict,” Ms. Bragg said referring the Indian Ocean tsunami which devastated the region six years ago, and the decades-long separatist rebellion by Tamils in the north, which ended in 2009.

“It’s hard to comprehend how people can recover from yet another disaster, especially as they were at a stage where they had planted crops and had the possibility of a sustained livelihood,” the humanitarian official said.

Today, Ms. Bragg met with the international aid community and donors to hear the latest on the flood response as well as on the humanitarian needs in the north, where the most vulnerable populations live following the end of the conflict.

Most organizations warned that their resources to respond to the flood crisis were exhausted because they were used to respond to earlier flooding in December. They voiced concerns for the remainder of the monsoon season, which goes until February. If there are more heavy rains, this could have a big impact on the lives of already vulnerable people.

Before launching the appeal on Thursday, Ms. Bragg will visit the worst flood-affected areas in the eastern province, as well as conflict-related return areas in the north. The appeal will be revised within the next month to reflect needs as the situation evolves.


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