Massive challenges ahead even as heavy rains subside in Sri Lanka

Published: 14th January 2011

International aid agency Oxfam has been providing support to thousands caught up in Sri Lanka’s devastating floods

More than a million people have been affected by the floods and need food items, water, blankets and hygiene kits immediately. The situation is especially bad for the 325,000 people displaced.

Oxfam hopes to scale up its assistance in the coming days and weeks. The ambition is to provide support in terms of food security, water and sanitation and public health for 120,000 people in three districts of the East. In addition, Oxfam is also aiming to provide food assistance to families in Pollanaruwa and Anuradhapura.

The heavy rains that wreaked havoc over the last few days, in parts of the country, have abated and the main road from Colombo to Batticaloa, closed for the past five days, has now reopened. In spite of these improvements, though, the crisis is far from over. Many areas including interior Batticaloa remain inaccessible, making it extremely difficult to assess needs and damage to life and property.

Thusitha Siriwardana, Campaigns and Policy Manager at Oxfam, said, “The situation has improved slightly but there are immense challenges especially in the Eastern Province. Oxfam is working with other agencies and government departments in responding to this disaster. Our priority is to meet the immediate needs of the affected people but we will soon have to start looking at the longer-term implications of the flood.”

The disaster comes at a time when many families were due to celebrate Thai Pongal, the Tamil Thanksgiving festival, which begins tomorrow.

Velapody Sodhimani, a resident of Mahilavedduvan village in South Batticaloa, has been living in a Government school building for the past one week. She said, “I feel terrible that I will not be able to celebrate the harvest festival in my own home with my children. The flood has destroyed everything.”

How you can help

Please consider making a donation to the general emergency fund of your nearest national Oxfam affiliate. Your money will be used to fund our emergency work worldwide, which includes responding in countries such as Sri Lanka.

Our priority is to meet the immediate needs of the affected people but we will soon have to start looking at the longer-term implications of the flood.

Notes to editors

Photos from Sri Lanka are available on request.

Oxfam staff are available for interview on the ground in the affected area.

Oxfam has been supporting projects and partners in Sri Lanka since 1968. Oxfam’s focus, in the country, is on women’s economic and political leadership, livelihoods and economic development, and humanitarian assistance and protection.

Contact information

For more information:
Thusitha Siriwardana, Campaigns and Policy Manager, Oxfam GB, Colombo
Mobile: +94 (0) 773184817

S. Raguraamamurty, Program Coordinator, Oxfam GB, Batticaloa
Mobile: +94 (0) 77 318 726 8