Sri Lankans face tough time ahead

|PIC1|Aid agencies warn that the condition of Sri Lankans living in camps will still be a major challenge for months to come.

The United Nations estimates that up to 300,000 people were displaced during fighting between Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers in which the government forces declared victory on May 18 ending 26-year of the conflict.

The agency said it had been able to send £400,000 to three partners in Sri Lanka - World Concern, Leads and Habitat for Humanity - as they help the Tamil people, the vast majority of whom are now being held in government-controlled camps.

The funds have helped the groups in their distribution of food, water, clothing, hygiene packs, shelters, kitchens and environmentally-friendly toilets and cookers.

However, overcrowding – with some people sharing a tent with 10 others - poor diet and water shortages remain issues.

Tony Senewiratne, National Director of Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka said, "I believe that the people in the camps are having a really tough time despite all that people are doing to alleviate the situation.

"This is not going to change in the short term."

Selina Prem, Country manager of World Concern working on the east coast, said food shortages had eased over the last few weeks but the big problem now is wells drying up in the dry season.

For 8,000 people in north Trincomalee there is little water available locally and thousands of litres are needed daily.

Commenting on how the displaced were coping, she said, "People seem generally to have accepted the fact they have to stay in the camps but their desire is to go home or to be able to travel to other camps to meet up with family members.

"They are glad the fighting is over but their concern for the future is not the political settlement but when they can go home, how to start again – all the personal worries of family, home and livelihood."

Leads is providing meals at 11 kitchens for more than 18,000 people in Vavuniya and recently provided clothes and footwear for 10,000 people at camps in Jaffna, where building work is underway on 100 emergency shelters and communal kitchens.

Also it's planning to build 200 emergency shelters and sanitation for people with disabilities once sites are secured.

Tearfund's Clare Crawford said, "Our partners in Sri Lanka are the most amazing examples of teams of people, called by God, ready to give everything in the service of the wounded, the poor, the widow, the child.

"They are helping thousands of people who have gone through immense suffering and tragedies."