The United Nations, its humanitarian partners and the Sri Lankan Government launched a joint programme today to help hundreds of thousands of people in the north of the Indian Ocean island recover and rebuild their lives after the end of the decades-long war with Tamil separatists.
“The ultimate aim is to ensure the long-term sustainable development of the Northern Province within the shortest timeframe possible,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Neil Buhne said. “The process of recovery, from humanitarian relief to economic development, would take several years.”
The one-year plan, which identifies priority activities and strategies to be undertaken during 2011, will support the overall national programme to help the affected people recover, rebuild and return to a normal life in the coming years. It provides a framework for meeting immediate needs while linking interventions to early- and medium-term recovery, including building shelters and homes and supporting agriculture, food security and livelihood recovery.
It also includes a wide range of early recovery efforts such as improving health and nutrition, clearing mines to support continued resettlement, education initiatives, water and sanitation strategies, and strengthening civil administration and national protection mechanisms.
“Through partnership with the UN and NGOs [non-governmental organizations], more investments will be made to move towards full development of the region to reach similar standards found in the rest of the country,” Sri Lankan Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa said.
The launch follows a visit to Sri Lanka last month by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg, who said there were still immediate humanitarian needs that needed to be addressed almost two years after the Government finally crushed the separatist rebellion.
She noted that only 20,000 of the 300,000 persons displaced at the height of the crisis still remain in Government-run camps, but there are many thousands of others who have left 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 let them fully restart their livelihoods.