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Sri Lanka: transition from conflict to recovery and reconstruction continues

14-10-2010 Operational Update

Most of those displaced during the final months of last year's conflict have returned to what is left of their homes, or are living with host families until they have a place of their own. Providing basic assistance for those affected remains the ICRC's priority.

As in all contexts where the ICRC carries out its humanitarian work, it continues to perform its tasks even after the end of hostilities.

As soon as the conflict ended in the eastern districts of Sri Lanka, the ICRC helped those who were affected to restart their livelihoods by providing them with shelter, water and sanitary facilities.

Today, the ICRC endeavours to meet the basic needs of displaced people and returnees. It is also assisting amputees and other disabled people, and detainees and their families. In addition, it has expressed its willingness to the authorities to contribute to the resumption of livelihoods and to facilitate access to health care for returnees in the Northern Province.

ICRC activities between May and August 2010 included the following:

Visiting detainees and enabling family members to visit them

ICRC staff have been visiting places of detention throughout the country since 1989. In the 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. The ICRC also help detainees and their families keep in touch through the exchange of Red Cross messages and by covering travel expenses to enable family members to visit their relatives in detention. Between May and August the ICRC:

  • made 138 visits to 95 places of detention where it met privately with over 2,400 detainees;
  • provided detainees in temporary and permanent places of detention with toiletries, clothes and recreational items;
  • gave over 30 pairs of crutches to detainees with disabilities;
  • paid for six detainees to return home by public transport following their release;
  • collected 1,358 and distributed 664 Red Cross messages, mostly between detainees and their families;
  • provided over 7,000 families with a travel allowance to enable them to visit detained relatives;
  • commenced the construction of 36 new toilets for male detainees in the Welikada Remand Prison in Colombo, and renovated a further 25 toilets, also for male detainees, in the prison.

Promoting international humanitarian law

To promote knowledge 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.

  • In May, at the request of the Sri Lanka Army, the ICRC conducted two pre-deployment briefing programmes on the basic rules of international humanitarian law and on the organization's activities in Haiti for nearly 800 army personnel going to Haiti on peace-support operations.
  • In June, July and August, the ICRC conducted 12 training sessions on the basic rules of international humanitarian law and on the organization's activities worldwide for nearly 850 members of the Sri Lanka Army.

Supporting the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation

The ICRC provides the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation, which celebrated 23 years of service in July, with technical assistance and supplies, including raw materials such as polypropylene and other prosthetic components. Between May and August the Centre:

  • produced close to 120 prostheses for amputees, including those who fell victim to landmines and explosive remnants of war;
  • produced over 40 orthoses for people with innate or acquired physical disabilities;
  • provided 28 wheelchairs;
  • provided over 85 pairs of crutches and other mobility aids.

Improving living conditions and access to water

The ICRC donated shelter and water-supply equipment to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and the National Water Supply and Drainage Board in Jaffna to support their efforts to respond to future emergencies in the country.

  • Around 250 families will benefit from shelter during an emergency through the donation to the Sri Lanka Red Cross of 225 family tents and over 385 tarpaulins. More than 800 timber frames, 1,000 kilograms of cement, 925 kilograms of nails and various items such as handsaws, hammers, crowbars and mammoties (hoes) required to assemble the shelters were also included in the donation.
  • The ICRC donated five water pumps to the Sri Lanka Red Cross for use in cleaning wells in the country.
  • The ICRC donated 11 water tanks with a capacity of 34,000 litres to the National Water Supply and Drainage Board.The tanks will make it possible to provide 2,500 people with at least 15 litres of drinking water every day. The Board was also given two water pumps.

Cooperating with the Sri Lanka Red Cross

As part of an ongoing effort to enhance the capacity of the Sri Lanka Red Cross, the ICRC:

  • sponsored the training of 25 Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers to enable them to raise awareness of the fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement;
  • donated enough shelter and water-supply equipment to meet the needs of around 10,000 people, as a means of boosting the ability of the Sri Lanka Red Cross to respond to emergencies. The donation included 20 1,000-litre water tanks, two 120,000-litre water tanks, bladders to store water in emergencies with a total capacity of 160,000 litres, five pumps to feed them with water, 44 bacterial water test kits and 1,200 kilograms of chlorine to purify water. The ICRC also donated 700 polyvinyl chloride pipes for sanitation purposes, and tools and accessories, including 7,000 kilograms of rope, for use in erecting shelters.

Other aid for conflict and disaster victims

The ICRC purchased 203 metric tonnes of high-quality tea grown in Sri Lanka for distribution in Pakistan, Iraq and the West Bank to more than 700,000 displaced people and local residents affected by armed conflict or floods.

The ICRC has over 325 staff working in Sri Lanka, including 35 expatriates, based in Colombo, Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mannar.


Beneficiaries of the Family Visits Assistance programme in the ICRC's Vavuniya office. 

Beneficiaries of the Family Visits Assistance programme in the ICRC's Vavuniya office.

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