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Sri Lanka bulletin No. 1 - 31 January 2005

31-01-2005 Operational Update

ICRC's activities on behalf of the tsunami victims

Sri Lanka's coastlines were overwhelmed by the tsunami that followed the undersea earthquake in an area close to Sumatra on December 26. The ICRC has been coordinating the response of Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement in the north and east, areas where it already had a strong presence in relation to the ceasefire and conflict situation between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eleam (LTTE).

The ICRC launched relief operations within hours of the disaster, with local ICRC and volunteers from the Sri Lanka Red Cross helping to evacuate the injured and recover bodies.

    

 Assistance  

They also began distributing essential household items to displaced families. To date, more than 30,000 family kits consisting of floor mats, bed sheets, soap, towels, buckets, jerry cans, cooking pots, plastic dishes and sleeping mats have been distributed in the districts of Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincolmalee, Jaffna, and Killinochchi/Mullaitivu. Clothing and lanterns were also provided.

More than 5,200 tarpaulins and over 700 tents have been distributed to date – a further 3,000 tents are to be supplied and almost 50,000 blankets have been given out either directly to displaced persons or to health facilities.

At the request of the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, the ICRC has extended its presence on crossings between government and LTTE-held areas to facilitate the passage of human itarian aid and civilians.

 Medical support  

The ICRC has delivered essential medical items such as vaccines, antibiotics and dressings to hospitals in Mullaitivu and Killinochchi in the north-east.

The ICRC supported Norwegian-clinic in Batticaloa has been visited by 180 patients every day since the disaster happened. Assistance has also been provided to hospitals in Killinochchi and Vavuniya and additional stocks of medical equipment, dressings and drugs have been made throughout the north and the east.

In collaboration with the German Red Cross a field hospital with 18 staff is being set up in Puthukkudiyiruppu (Mullaitivu district) and will be operational in days. It is also planned to provide support to a basic health facility in Killinochchi district to include up to 15 additional staff members.

 Water and Sanitation  

Over the past five years, the ICRC has been running programmes to ensure the provision of safe water to populations living in rural areas of the north and east by maintaining over 500 hand pumps and wells.

In the current situation, this expertise was quickly deployed to ensure hygiene conditions remained acceptable for thousands of families having to share limited water supplies and sanitation facilities at welfare centres and camps. Fresh water was trucked in where necessary. Pumps and wells were repaired, cleaned and chlorinated and 60 latrines were dug and others made suitable for use.

The ICRC also provided chemicals for the central water pumping station in the capital, Colombo.

 Family Links  

In the aftermath of the disaster, the ICRC took the lead within the Movement with regard to restoring contacts between separated family members. Immediately following the disaster, the ICRC set up a website www.familylinks.org providing information for people concerned about loved ones.

Mobile teams are also collecting information on " I am alive " forms and displaying lists in public places and making them available for broadcast. Red Cross messages have also been collected and exchanged and unaccompanied children registered.

Satellite phones have also been made available for people to call their relatives.

 Next steps  

    

The emergency phase of relief operations is almost complete, although the ICRC will continue to assist some people in very isolated areas.

The ICRC is now drawing up a plan of action to continue to cover people's basic needs in the north and the east for the next six months, intending to provide essential household items for 30,000 families and hygiene kits for a similar number. Beneficiaries will include both displaced persons in welfare centres and camps and other vulnerable local residents.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 24 58  

 ICRC Colombo, tel. ++9411 250 33 46/7