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Stronger Civil society and International response needed to deal with the flood crisis

Jan 16, 2011 3:13:37 PM- transcurrents.com

by National Peace Council

Recent heavy rains across Sri Lanka have caused flooding and landslides that have left tens of thousands homeless, caused several deaths and affected over a million people. The flood crisis continues to be serious. The worst affected areas are in the East of the country which was previously devastated by long years of war and by the Tsunami of 2004. In comparison to the Tsunami, even though the number of persons who lost their lives is significantly less, thedamage is terms of destruction agricultural lands, infrastructure damage and loss of livelihoods is higher.

The government has dealt with the immediate aftermath of the disaster by deploying security forces personnel who have been supported by local level government structures in place working closely with local and international NGOs and communities living adjacent villages and towns. Government Ministers in charge of Disaster Management and other relevant Ministers were quick to go to the flood hit areas. The government's focus at present is on the provision of immediate relief. The government would be aware that further problems are likely to arise in the future. Besides epidemics, a scarcity of rice may come in the wake of floods that have destroyed vast extents of paddy land and irrigation systems, upon which many farmers are dependent for cultivation.

As a result of the floods the country is facing a serious situation in the immediate and short term. However, no national emergency has been declared by the government as yet which will generate a more generous and speedy international donor response. We urge the government to do all it can to generate more assistance for the affected people. People who lost their belongings and houses in war and tsunami now face the especially demoralizing challenge of once again starting from scratch after the floods. The National Peace Council is of the view that they need special solicitude on account of the many blows and setbacks they have suffered over the past many years.

The National Peace Council also believes it is important that the flood affected people should be given hope and confidence that they will not have to face the future alone, but will have the government and non-governmental organizations working with them in the longer term. The overwhelming nature of the crisis shows the importance of having international donor support and active and strong non-governmental and civil society sectors that can supplement the commendable efforts of the government. The establishment of an emergency response mechanism based on a partnership between these actors would be a task for the government to undertake.