New British Government urged to help Sri Lanka's war displaced

By staff writers
May 18, 2010

Christian Aid is urging the new British government to make a renewed effort to work with the Sri Lankan government and the international community to reach conflict affected areas and people still recovering from the 30-year civil war.

A year after the Sri Lankan conflict ended, there are still 76,000 people living in temporary camps.

"The British Government must step up efforts to work with the Sri Lankan government and provide further funding to assist the many returnees who still desperately need help," said Brian Martin, Christian Aid’s country manager for Sri Lanka.

On May 18 2009, Sri Lankan forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after a long, bloody civil war in the north and east of the country. Many Sri Lankan civilians died in the final months of the war and the fighting drove 300,000 people from their homes.

Today, 76,000 are still living in temporary camps in Sri Lanka, awaiting resettlement, subject to the availability of suitable land, including large areas which need to be cleared of mines.

Those left in the camps tend to be widows, separated families or low income families, often with no land to return to. Many of the aid agencies who originally supported the camps have now left or diverted their focus to the returnees.

One of Christian Aid's partners has been helping in the camps to fill the gaps by providing nutritional food and hygiene kits.

For those returning to their homes in the Northern Province, where fighting was the heaviest, their homes have either been destroyed or badly damaged and there is currently no way to make a living as their fields are overgrown or have not been cleared of mines. These returnees have limited access to basic services such as medical care, water or education and are living in temporary shelter such as tents or under plastic sheeting with no toilets.

Additionally, nearly half of the returnees are households headed by women who have lost their husbands or are separated from them. Many of these returnees have faced multiple displacements, not only due the conflict, but also from the tsunami in 2004. They have lost all their belongings.

Meanwhile, a further 73,000 Sri Lankan refugees are living in 115 camps in Tamil Nadu, India, waiting for the right opportunity to return home.

"The generous support that was given to the initial emergency appeal last year helped 5,000 families in these camps. The balance of these funds has now been spent on the returnees by our partners" said Brian Martin.

"More funding is desperately needed to help in the villages where our partners are working hard to rebuild [the] lives and livelihoods of these returnees. We need to help with income generation before the heavy monsoon rains make living conditions even more dire."


Keywords:sri lanka
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