Flooding, landslides, violent winds: torrential rains hit Sri Lanka from 19 to 30 December, affecting 22 of the country’s 25 districts mostly in the Eastern, North-Central, North-Western, Central, Uva Provinces. The flooding has impacted 1,121,000 people , leaving 39 people dead and 24,000 homes destroyed. Thousands of people have had to seek shelter with other family members or in evacuation centres.
"The worst-affected district is Batticaloa in the east of Sri Lanka. Batticaloa was already very severely hit by the tsunami in 2004, large numbers of the population were also displaced and resettled during the 30 years of conflict that ended in 2009 " explains Nancy Rollinson, Technical Unit Coordinator for Handicap International in Sri Lanka. Batticaloa is one of the poorest districts in Sri Lanka, its vulnerabilities are linked to the impact of the war, the tsunami, and water related climate variability which affects health and safety, water resources, agriculture and fisheries, access to services and livelihood/economic development of families and communities.
Handicap International, which has been working in the country since 2003, has taken action in Batticaloa, where more than 482,692 people - 82% of the district’s population - have been affected. In this region rapid assessments identify over 138,000 families have lost their livelihoods and 50% of the rice plantations have been destroyed. In collaboration with other humanitarian actors, the association has carried out two needs assessment missions to assess the priority needs of the affected populations. Providing access to drinking water, cleaning and repairing wells, guaranteeing food security and ensuring the most vulnerable recover their source of income are the basic priorities.
"Farmers, fishermen, livestock owners, tradesmen, they are all extremely worried how they will recover their livelihoods," adds Nancy Rollinson.
In the aftermath, with 13,000 homes damaged and the populations concerned displaced to evacuation centres, Handicap International distributed 1,850 kits containing non-food items to the people staying in 11 different evacuation centres, as well as to 213 people with disabilities (including warm clothes, blankets and food: rice, dhal, sugar and tea). Handicap International has started a second wave of support to 13,398 people including people with disabilities which will include hygiene kits and hygiene awareness-raising sessions.