UMCOR Responds to Needs in Sri Lanka
April 28, 2009—The United Methodist Committee on Relief Non-Governmental Organization (UMCOR NGO) is on the ground in Sri Lanka, working with other humanitarian aid organizations to provide emergency assistance to those who are escaping conflict. Because of an umbrella grant from the US Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), UMCOR is able to reach out to the most vulnerable, working with 18 partner organizations to develop programs that identify and address the needs of uprooted people in Sri Lanka.
Military Conflict Creates Humanitarian Crisis
As fighting in the northern region of Sri Lanka intensified last week, thousands of civilians remained caught in the cross fire between the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In January, the SLA secured all except a small strip of land in the Vanni region. The LTTE continue to occupy that strip, trapping tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs).
When the Sri Lankan forces made significant advances into the region last week, more than 100,000 uprooted people fled the fighting. Many of them have been displaced numerous times because of the conflict and most have very few belongings. Since January 2009, an estimated 180,000 people have been directed to Vavuniya, a district that is overburdened with the needs of people in crisis.
UMCOR Sri Lanka Head of Mission, Bharat Pathak reports, "While approximately 18,000 of these persons are being kept in Jaffna, the majority is quickly diverted from the screening checkpoint to overcrowded and severely under-resourced camps." Pathak continues, "In response to this humanitarian emergency, aid agencies are very rapidly trying to provide the needed relief to the persons in need through the provision of emergency shelters, water and sanitation, food and non-food items such as clothing and sanitation needs, medicines and health assistance."
Most immediately, UMCOR is directly implementing emergency relief, purchasing 60,000 emergency kits that include water, glucose, and biscuits. The kits will be distributed to displaced people as they arrive at the Omanthai checkpoint on the way to Vavuniya. UMCOR, with funds from the US Government and the United Methodist Church, has also approved funding for the construction of 4,400 emergency shelters and 800 duplex-toilets in Vavuniya.
Working with the Ministry of Health and USAID/OFDA, UMCOR provided World Health Organization standard emergency health kits and basic medical supplies to provide treatment to 50,000 hospitalized people in Vavuniya, Mannar and Padwiya where hospital resources are particularly strained.
According to Pathak, "UMCOR will continue to advocate behalf of the people that remain trapped behind LTTE lines within the Vanni, while ensuring that the immediate relief and recovery needs are continually upheld for those persons that have fled for safety."
About UMCOR Sri Lanka
UMCOR established its office in Sri Lanka following the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Country operations are based in Colombo with program offices in Batticaloa and Trincomalee. All of UMCOR's programs in Sri Lanka are carried out in close cooperation with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka (MCSL), and the UK-based NGO, Muslim Aid.
Since late 2007, UMCOR has managed an umbrella grant program that enables other humanitarian agencies to provide quick responses to the emergency needs of conflict-affected people in the North and East of Sri Lanka. The program, funded by the US Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, supports interventions in areas such as shelter, livelihoods, water and sanitation, protection, and emergency relief. UMCOR currently partners with local and international non-governmental organizations and international organizations to respond to emergencies.