The Sri Lankan Government has made significant progress in resettling the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the decades-long war with Tamil separatists but a lot more work still needs to be done, a top United Nations humanitarian official said today.
“It is clear that there are still immediate humanitarian needs that we must address now,” the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, told a news briefing in New York on her recent three-day visit to the Indian Ocean island, where the Government crushed the separatist revolt in the north in May 2009.
She noted that only 20,000 of the 300,000 persons displaced at the height of the crisis still remain in Government-run camps. “However, due to the difficulties in clearing land mines and the lack of basic services in the home areas, those remaining in the camps are expected to stay there until at least the middle of 2011 and will continue to require humanitarian assistance,” she said.
Moreover, there are many thousands of people who have left the formal camps but are either in transitional settlements where they still need aid or have returned to areas that lack the basic services and infrastructure needed to allow them to fully restart their livelihoods.
“The Government has committed significant resources to infrastructure in the return areas but there’s so much more that still needs to be done and most of the returnees have limited access to basic services such as shelter, water and sanitation, health care,” Ms. Bragg said.
“These communities remain extremely vulnerable. The future of the north is about investing in people. They need skills, livelihoods and social development to help them move on with their lives.”
During her visit she also visited flood victims in the east, where there has been “overwhelming” damage to livelihoods, social services and infrastructure among a vulnerable population that has already been severely affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and the separatist conflict.
While in Sri Lank Ms. Bragg launched a $51 million appeal for the flood victims. The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated $6 million to jumpstart key life-saving projects.