Sri Lanka: UN agency appeals for $10 million to help refugees return home

Sri Lanka: UN agency appeals for $10 million to help refugees return home

Sri Lankans are returning after 20 years of civil war
The United Nations refugee agency today appealed for $10 million to help hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Sri Lanka to return to their homes after two decades of bloody civil war ended earlier this year.

The United Nations refugee agency today appealed for $10 million to help hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Sri Lanka to return to their homes after two decades of bloody civil war ended earlier this year.

"The international community must meet the needs of the thousands of Sri Lankans already streaming home and the many more people who look ready to follow," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, said of the task ahead. So far, more than 180,000 people have returned home, as well as some 1,000 refugees who came back from India, after a ceasefire agreement was adopted in February.

The $10 million appeal is intended to cover the period from October through December 2003 and is to pay for humanitarian assistance for up to 60,000 families. The assistance will include some very basic but essential items such as sleeping mats, soap and cooking sets.

The UN agency said it would also finance projects to fill gaps in other sectors, including minor infrastructure repairs in returnee service areas and the rebuilding of access roads, water and sanitation, health services and other income generating activities.

"Returnee and reintegration assistance alone won't help Sri Lanka erase the damage wrought by years of conflict and economic stagnation," Mr. Lubbers said, noting that UNHCR is working closely with other UN agencies and international partners to ensure that adequate help is given so Sri Lankans "can build upon their new-found peace."