In the wake of the 2004 tsunami, Handicap International set up rehabilitation centres on the island to treat the survivors. These centres also benefited victims of the civil war that ravaged the country from 1983 to 2009.
© Handicap International
Handicap International's teams took rapid and effective action immediately after the 2004 tsunami hit Sri Lanka. The organisation, which has been working in the country since 1992, now provides support for people with disabilities through inclusive employment and community involvement projects, and capacity-building to help people protect themselves in the event of a natural disaster.
Following the flooding in North-East Sri Lanka in December 2015 and January 2016, Handicap International offered assistance to affected households in the worst-hit districts (Batticaloa, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu). After the disaster, the most vulnerable households found themselves in an extremely precarious situation. Handicap International distributed food and shelters to flood victims.
In a country where people with disabilities have very limited access to employment, Handicap International establishes relationships between people with disabilities and different organisations, such as vocational training centres, banks, chambers of commerce, associations, and economic development schemes implemented by the government etc. The aim is to improve attitudes to disability and to enable people with disabilities to have better access to these services and to employment.
Furthermore, the organisation promotes the participation in society of women with and without disabilities, including by organising training on women’s rights, equality and reconciliation, to help them build peace in their communities and feel more integrated.
In order to reduce the impact of natural disasters on the inhabitants of the provinces in the north and east of the country, Handicap International is educating the population on the risks and ensuring that people with disabilities have access to all the services put into place in emergency situations, including rehabilitation care. The organisation also works to ensure that people with disabilities are identified as being at-risk and are considered as stakeholders in their own right, in the prevention and crisis management mechanisms used.
Sri Lanka was already ravaged by armed conflict when the tsunami hit its coast in 2004. The disaster caused the loss of more than 40,000 lives and led to the displacement of over 500,000 people, in addition to the 390,000 persons already displaced by the conflict. The combination of the tsunami and the armed conflict increased the vulnerability of people with disabilities in the country.
The war which consumed the north of the country lasted for nearly 30 years (1983 - 2009) and caused more than 60,000 deaths. Thousands of people were injured, of whom many were left with disabilities and many sustained their injuries from shells or anti-personnel landmines. Some 390,000 people were displaced by the conflict during the civil war.
Sri Lanka’s wounds are slowly healing and the reconstruction process is still ongoing, helped by the country’s flourishing economy, and the rapid development of its infrastructure and services. Nevertheless, there is still a significant risk of natural disasters, including flooding, drought, landslides and cyclones, all of which frequently affect the island.
Along with these recurrent disasters, the 2004 tsunami caused widespread physical and social damage. The disaster killed more than 40,000 people and left over 250,000 homeless. In recent years, flooding forced more than 400,000 to flee their homes in 2008 and a further 300,000 in 2010. Flooding between December 2015 and January 2016 affected more than 49,000 people.
 There are however significant geographical disparities. For example, the north and east are four times poorer than the west of the country and investment in these areas is very limited.