Further flooding deepens Sri Lanka disaster, Oxfam says

International agency Oxfam today said that the disaster in Sri Lanka was deepening as a result of a second wave of flooding in the country. One million people in Sri Lanka have already been affected by the first wave of flooding.

January 20, 2011

“These fresh floods could not have occurred at a worse time. The situation is alarming as people who recently returned to their homes after last month’s flooding have been forced to flee again. Needs are immense and the affected population is being exposed to fresh dangers after the latest round of flooding”, said Thusitha Siriwardana, Oxfam’s Campaign Manager in the country.

The first wave of flooding took place less than a month ago and affected over a million people in the East and North Central Provinces. The floods devastated lives and livelihoods and resulted in the displacement of over 360,000 people. A flash appeal for US$51 million was launched by the UN on January 19.

The recent floods have been widespread affecting 18 districts in the Eastern, Northern, Central and North-Central Provinces. More than 1 million people have been affected in the new flooding and more than 320,000 have been forced into temporary shelters. Damage to houses, roads and farmlands has further intensified. Many areas are still inaccessible making it difficult to conduct rescue and relief operations and to assess the extent of damage.

The Oxfam Canada Emergency Response Fund (ERF) enables us to provide timely, appropriate responses to emergency situations and to support reconstruction work that enables people affected by an emergency to get back on their feet and become less vulnerable to disasters in the future. ERF also provides critical funding and enables Oxfam to respond to emergencies that don’t capture the attention of the media and don’t make it to the headlines.

You can help Oxfam Canada provide assistance to people affected by disasters by donating to our Emergency Response Fund.

“The situation is critical," Siriwardana warned. "In addition to the massive humanitarian needs there are long-term concerns regarding food security as well. The floods are likely to destroy more than 90 per cent of the paddy cultivation in the affected districts."

The international community needs to do more for the flood affected in the country. So far only $11.6 million has been received towards the flood response, including $7.7 million mobilized through the UN Flash Appeal for US$ 51 million.

Oxfam has already been supporting 120,000 people in the Eastern and North-Central Provinces with basic items including food and water. The agency has responded to the latest wave of flooding as well and has reached affected populations with cooked food, water, tarpaulins, and hygiene items. In addition, Oxfam has also been providing support in rescue services.

“The floods are the worst natural disaster here since the 2004 tsunami and there will be enormous challenges ahead," said Thusitha Siriwardana, Oxfam’s Campaign Manager in Sri Lanka. "Hopefully, the UN appeal will help donors grasp the magnitude of this crisis. The appeal will focus on the emergency needs of people -- food, water and sanitation and health issues -- but we would urge donors to address the longer-term too."

“Things were difficult when the water came," said Shanthikumar, 45, from Vinayapuram village in Ampara District. "We had to spend a week in the camp. Even now, there is knee-deep water in my house and we have trouble accessing the toilet facilities. It’s difficult to find clean water for drinking. My paddy fields are still under water and I am worried about what I’ll feed my children.  I’m tired of moving so often. Most of my life I’ve spent outside my home as a result of the tsunami and the conflict.”

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.

To arrange interviews with Oxfam staff in Sri Lanka:

Thusitha Siriwardana: Tsiriwardana@oxfam.lk or +94 (0) 773184817