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Sri Lanka: returning home to rebuild livelihoods

17-01-2011 Operational Update No 11/01

Ever since two decades of armed conflict ended in May 2009, Sri Lanka has been focusing on reconstruction and development. This is an update on ICRC activities carried out in the country between September and December 2010.

In this post-conflict transition phase, the ICRC is focusing on the needs of groups and families arising from the past conflict that will persist for some time, pursuing its visits to detainees and promoting compliance with humanitarian rules. In addition, it is cooperating on a number of projects with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and other partners within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

In November, the ICRC closed its office in the Mannar district, which had been first opened in 1995. After receiving a request conveyed through the Ministry of External Affairs in mid-November to close its offices in the Jaffna and Vavuniya districts and carry out operations from Colombo, the ICRC is discussing the future of its operations in Sri Lanka with the authorities.

Providing assistance for people returning to their home areas

Between September and December, the ICRC distributed 360 two-wheeled tractors to farmers' organizations in the Jaffna, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Anuradhapura districts to help people returning to those areas restart farming activities. In addition, it distributed 45 scooters and 26 motorcycles to health workers and local authorities in the north to make it easier for them to perform their tasks in rural areas.

Providing support for the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation

The ICRC has made a prosthetist-orthotist available to the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation and provides it with supplies, including raw materials such as polypropylene and other prosthetic components. Since September, an ICRC physiotherapist based at the centre has trained two assistants and supervised an effort to provide services for those who cannot come to the centre.

Between September and December, when more than 200 patients benefited from its services, the centre:

  • produced over 85 prostheses for amputees, including those who fell victim to landmines and other explosive remnants of war;
  • produced 45  orthoses for people with innate or acquired physical disabilities;
  • provided at least 40 crutches and other mobility aids;
  • donated two amputation kits to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.

Working in partnership with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society

The ICRC continues to work closely with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and other partners within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to bring aid to those who need it most. Between September and December, the ICRC:

  • provided support, at the request of the health ministry, for a Sri Lanka Red Cross mobile health clinic for returnees in Maruthankerny. By December, the clinic had treated 1,085 patients;
  • helped the Sri Lanka Red Cross to continue to supply the Chettikulam Hospital in Vavuniya with water;
  • donated roofing materials and other items used in making shelters to the Sri Lanka Red Cross in Jaffna to enable it to erect temporary shelters in emergency situations;
  • provided technical assistance to streamline records in the Sri Lanka Red Cross tracing database for monitoring and training purposes;
  • helped the Sri Lanka Red Cross provide first-aid training for 30 football coaches in Mannar;
  • provided other support to boost the capacities of the Sri Lanka Red Cross.

Visiting detainees and enabling family members to visit them

ICRC staff have been visiting places of detention throughout the country since 1989. In the confidential discussions with the authorities that take place during the visits, ICRC staff members seek to ensure that the treatment of detainees and their conditions of detention meet international standards and comply with domestic laws.

Over the past four months ICRC delegates have:

  • made nearly 60 visits to more than 40 places of detention and met privately with over 1,900 detainees;
  • provided toiletries, clothing and recreational items for people held in temporary and permanent places of detention. They have also provided mobility aids such as crutches, as needed;
  • collected more than 900 Red Cross messages (containing brief family news) and distributed more than 750;
  • provided over 8,000 families with a travel allowance to enable them to visit their detained relatives;
  • paid for six detainees to return home by public transport following their release;
  • fitted 18 amputee detainees with lower-limb prostheses;
  • completed the construction of 24 toilets and the renovation of a further 10 toilets for male prisoners in the Welikada Remand Prison in Colombo. In addition, it installed two 500-litre water tanks in the prison. The construction of a further 12 toilets and the renovation of a further 15, also for male prisoners, is under way.

Promoting compliance with international humanitarian law

To promote awareness of and respect for international humanitarian law, the ICRC conducts training sessions and holds briefings for academics, the authorities and members of the armed forces. It also organizes national and regional moot-court competitions on international humanitarian law.

Between September and December, the ICRC:

  • held 23 briefing sessions on international humanitarian law for over 230 civilians and more than 1,750 army, navy and air force personnel. Five of the sessions were attended by personnel going to Lebanon or Haiti on UN peace-support missions;
  • sponsored the participation of a senior Sri Lankan army officer in a workshop held in Switzerland on international rules governing military operations;
  • organized, together with the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo, the Henry Dunant memorial national moot-court competition and sponsored the participation of the winning team at the regional moot-court competition held in New Delhi, where they emerged runners-up.

Providing other aid for conflict and disaster victims

The ICRC purchased and shipped 62 metric tonnes of high-quality tea grown in Sri Lanka for distribution to more than 50,000 families in Pakistan and the West Bank adversely affected by flooding or the direct consequences of armed conflict.

The ICRC has 318 staff working in Sri Lanka, including 31 expatriates, based in Colombo, Jaffna and Vavuniya.


Photos

Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation. One of the people who received a wheelchair from the centre. 

Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation. One of the people who received a wheelchair from the centre.
© ICRC / S. Worthington

Some of the 45 scooters and 26 motorcycles that the ICRC distributed to health workers and local authorities in the north to make it easier for them to perform their tasks in rural areas. 

Some of the 45 scooters and 26 motorcycles that the ICRC distributed to health workers and local authorities in the north to make it easier for them to perform their tasks in rural areas.
© ICRC / S. Liyanage

Karainager Island, Jaffna. This farmer is using a tractor donated by the ICRC.  

Karainager Island, Jaffna. This farmer is using a tractor donated by the ICRC. The ICRC distributed two-wheeled tractors to farmers’ organizations in the districts of Jaffna, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Anuradhapura, to help people start earning a living when they returned to northern Sri Lanka and Anuradhapura district after fighting ended.
© ICRC / S. Worthington

Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation. A man learns to walk on his artificial limb, under the watchful eye of an ICRC physiotherapist. 

Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation. A man learns to walk on his artificial limb, under the watchful eye of an ICRC physiotherapist.
© ICRC / S. Worthington