Sri Lankan farmers need urgent help after losing rice harvest to floods – UN official

Sri Lankan farmers need urgent help after losing rice harvest to floods – UN official

Families wade through floodwaters triggered by heavy rains in eastern Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka may have lost up to 40 per cent of the national rice harvest to the two waves of floods that ravaged the country in December and January, and inhabitants of the affected areas will need continued humanitarian support until they recover from the destruction, a United Nations official said today.

“A lot of farmers in these areas are people who were living on the edge – had borrowed money hoping for a good harvest crop [and] will now have no income,” Neil Buhne, the outgoing UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sri Lanka, told reporters in Geneva.

“We are very concerned about the impact this will have,” said Mr. Buhne, explaining that farmers in Batticaloa district in the Eastern Province had lost their entire rice crop to the floods just as they were getting ready to start harvesting. Residents of Trincomalee district in the same province lost an estimated 40 per cent of their rice harvest, he added.

The floods also destroyed much of the infrastructure in the affected areas, with many of the water wells contaminated by floodwater, according to Mr. Buhne.

“There is very serious damage to the physical infrastructure. The irrigation system might not be able to work for quite some time in many areas,” he said.

The UN and its humanitarian partners appealed for $51 million to provide humanitarian assistance to an estimated one million people affected by the first wave of the floods, caused by torrential rainfall in December. The second wave of flooding hit the country in January exacerbating the damage wrought by the previous deluge.

That appeal is currently 24 per cent funded, having received $12 million. Mr. Buhne said that the appeal will be revised at the end of this month, taking into account the humanitarian needs of those affected by the second wave of floods.

Mr. Buhne also presented to donor representatives in Geneva a document prepared by the Government of Sri Lanka, the UN and non-governmental organizations, outlining the humanitarian, early recovery and development requirements of northern Sri Lanka residents who were affected by nearly three decades of civil war that ended in 2009.

The document shows that some $280 million will be required for post-conflict humanitarian and reconstruction projects.

The majority of the 300,000 who were displaced and forced into camps during the conflict have returned to their villages of origin, with only 18,000 people still living in shelters for internally displaced persons. Returnees have, however, gone back to areas devastated by the war and in great need of reconstruction, Mr. Buhne said.