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Sri Lanka: equity in aid through community based interventions

10-12-2005 Feature

The ICRC is carrying out community based livelihood programmes in Sri Lanka's northern and eastern districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee.

An essential aspect of the ICRC approach is to balance aid between coastal areas destroyed by the tsunami and neighbouring inland areas that, while not directly affected by the disaster, have close economic links with communities on the coast and have thus experienced financial difficulties 

  ICRC delegate, registrating farmers before the seed distribution in the Vanni    

The ICRC is assisting some 5,000 fishing families in the northeast by replacing fishing nets lost in the tsunami. It has initiated some 20 community based intervention in the four districts, and the projects have been designed to assist the communities as a whole. In addition, the ICRC is supplying 9,000 families (3,000 each in Jaffna, Trincomalee and the Vanni) with a new set of household items to improve living and cooking conditions.

" The population affected by the tsunami has received massive assistance. This can create tension between neighbouring communities, " explains Marc Fumeaux, the ICRC programme coordinator for livelihoods and relief.

" We need to maintain equity between the coastal areas and the inland population, where families have been severely affected by years of conflict. We acknowledge that they have also been economically affected by the impact of aid, as prices of daily necessities as well as services such as transport and labour costs have surged. "

  ©ICRC / S.Olafsdottir/lk-e00158    
  Mary Johnkillery hopes the yields will enable her family to have three meals a day instead of only two    

Fumeaux says that now the emergency phase of the tsunami operation is over, it is natural for the ICRC to target inland communities in the North and the East – to move back to the organization's mandate of assisting population affected by conflict. While designing the programme, the ICRC teams interviewed and consulted the selected communities to set up projects to meet their specific needs in order to strengthen household incomes and improve their economic security.

" It is necessary to spend time with the communities to better understand their traditional activities and needs – their seasonal calendar of working, access to markets and their existing livelihoods, " says Fumeaux.

" It may mean replacing items lost in the disaster; reinforcing existing livelihoods; or even helping develop alternative income generating activities. "

Thus, the ICRC community based livelihood programme includes varied activities that range from some income-generating programmes, cash-for-work projects improving infrastructures, as well as one-off distributions. 

" We are not only looking at livelihoods in isolation, but also at the health and water and sanitation situation of the population we are supporting. Then we can provide them with a holistic assistance, taking into account what their needs are in other sectors as well, " says Fumeaux.