Humanitarian needs escalate as people start returning home in flood-affected Sri Lanka

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 18 Jan 2011

The scale of the humanitarian challenge is only just becoming clear as many people start returning to their homes in flood-hit Sri Lanka, international aid agency Oxfam said today.

The flood crisis, caused by relentless monsoon rains in early January, is the worst natural disaster to hit the country since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

More than a million people have been affected in the flood, which has resulted in major damage to crops, livestock and infrastructure.

Some 300,000 acres of rice fields have been affected and thousands of houses and irrigation tanks damaged. Oxfam is urging donors to respond generously to the UN appeal, which launches later this week.

Oxfam Programme Manager in Batticaloa, Subathra Yogasingham, said, “This is the worst natural disaster that Sri Lanka has faced since the 2004 tsunami. The challenges are immense.

“Even though the weather seems to have improved, there are hundreds of thousands of women, men and children that still need support.

“Families have been severely affected and many of their basic needs are yet to be met. They will also need significant help to rebuild their homes and restart their livelihoods.”

Among those affected by the flooding is Saundarajah Parvathy, 45, who returned to her home in Mahilavaduvvan village in Batticaloa West to find it had been destroyed by the flood water.

“I lost everything, groceries, cooking utensils and clothes. There are snakes in my house and my paddy field is under water. I will have to go back and stay at the government welfare camp for a few more days at least. I don’t know what I will do.”

Oxfam has been supporting flood-affected communities in Sri Lanka since the start of the disaster.

Working with local partners, Oxfam is currently reaching more than 17,000 people with non-food items, food and water assistance, hygiene kits, mosquito nets, mats and tarpaulins. The response will be massively scaled up in the next few days to reach 120,000 people in the Eastern and North Central Provinces.

Oxfam has been supporting projects and partners in Sri Lanka since 1968, with a focus on women’s economic and political leadership, livelihoods and economic development, as well as humanitarian assistance and protection.

For further media information, or interviews with staff on the ground in Sri Lanka, please contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on +61 3 9289 9415.