Massive challenges ahead in Sri Lanka despite heavy rains subsiding

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 15 Jan 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 urgently need food items, water, blankets and hygiene kits. The situation is especially bad for the 325,000 people displaced.

The heavy rains that wreaked havoc over the last few days have abated and the main road from Colombo to Batticaloa, closed for the past five days, has now reopened. In spite of these improvements 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.

Richard Young, Emergencies Manager at Oxfam Australia, 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 current 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 today.

Velapody Sodhimani, a resident of Mahilavedduvan village in South Batticaloa, has been living in a Government school building for the past 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.”

Oxfam hopes to scale up its assistance in the coming days and weeks. The aim is to provide support in terms of food, water & 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.

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.

For further media information, or interviews with staff on the ground in Sri Lanka, please contact: John Lindsay, Media Manager, Oxfam Australia Tel +61 (0)425 70 801