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Hundreds of thousands displaced by floods in eastern Sri Lanka



UNICEF Image  
© UNICEF Sri Lanka/2011/Gowriswaran  
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by rising floodwaters triggered by heavy rains in eastern Sri Lanka.  

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, 18 January 2011 – More than 300,000 people have been displaced by flooding in eastern Sri Lanka, where water levels in some areas are two metres higher than normal – and still rising.

Preceded by more than a week of intense wet weather, five days of non-stop heavy rain have turned part of Sri Lanka into an ever-deepening lake. Crocodiles and snakes are a threat to anyone considering wading through the floodwaters.

“In my 37 years of living in Batticaloa I have never seen anything like this,” said Health and Nutrition Officer Kirupairajah Gowriswaran of UNICEF’s Batticaloa Zone Office. “Ninety per cent of the local population is affected. Everyone is occupying whatever buildings they can find on higher ground.”

Much-needed supplies tackle the needs of families and children

UNICEF has conducted rapid assessments of the needs of flood-affected families and children, even though staff members themselves face flooding of their homes and the zone office. As the floods continue, two consignments of UNICEF supplies have been delivered to Ampara and Batticaloa to aid families living in temporary shelters.

© UNICEF Sri Lanka/2011/Gowriswaran
Floodwaters inundate the area around a UNICEF zone office in eastern Sri Lanka, where crocodiles and snakes are a threat to anyone wading to higher ground.

“These supplies will help to ensure families and children have access to safe drinking water and are able to maintain basic levels of hygiene,” said UNICEF Representative in Sri Lanka Reza Hossaini. “Understandably, all schools have been adopted as temporary shelters. There are no classes for children.

Supplies delivered to the flood zone include 50 water tanks (1,000 litres each), water tablets to purify 2 million litres, 7,000 tarpaulins, 22,000 sleeping mats, 13,000 buckets and 30,000 bars of soap, chlorine bleaching powder, 150 cooking pots and 4,961 hygiene kits (washing kits to last a family of five a month including towels, soap, toothpaste, washing powder).

Unfolding emergency

The consignments of UNICEF support is part of a wider UN effort to support the government as it provides emergency support to the affected communities. Because most roads are impassable, the Sri Lankan military is using boats to deliver much-needed aid.

“We are liaising closely with the government and other UN partners,” said Mr. Hossaini, “as we continue to monitor the flood conditions and determine how we are best able to assist those whose homes have been flooded.”

The UN has launched a flash appeal for $51 million in emergency funds to enable its agencies and partners (including UNICEF) to address the needs of more than one million flood-affected people over the next six months.

Children are the most vulnerable in any emergency. To support UNICEF’s relief efforts in emergency situations please donate now.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230,
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806,