As floods hit Sri Lanka, UN agencies back Government relief efforts

21 May 2010

United Nations agencies are supporting the efforts of the Sri Lankan Government to provide relief to an estimated half a million people affected by floods in the South Asian island country following a week of torrential rainfall that has claimed the lives of at least 20 people.

The UN World Food Programme will provide food for 400,000 of the affected people to supplement rations being distributed by the Sri Lankan Government, according to a situation report jointly prepared by the country’s Disaster Management Centre and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and issued yesterday.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has provided water tanks, more than 80,000 water purification tablets, soap and other sanitary items. The agency has also made available 3,000 packs of high-energy biscuits for distribution to those affected.

For the past one week, heavy pre-monsoon rainfall, accompanied by strong winds, has caused flash floods that have affected 14 of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts, including the capital, Colombo.

As of yesterday, more than 513,000 people or 118,888 families had been affected, including some 17,039 people who have been forced to move out of their homes. Initial reports indicate that 1,354 houses have been damaged or destroyed.

The Sri Lankan navy has responded by deploying teams in boats to assist with evacuations and delivery of relief, while the army has been assisting in transporting supplies to affected areas where access has been cut off.

Yesterday, a Government-led inter-agency flood assessment mission, which included officials from WFP and OCHA, visited Kalutara district in South-Western province, a day after visiting Gampaha district in North-Western Province. The two districts are among the worst affected and have recorded large numbers of displaced people and heavy damage to property.

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