UN News Centre
21 January 2011 – Senior United Nations relief official Catherine Bragg today stressed the world body’s continued commitment to helping Sri Lanka tackle its growing humanitarian needs, as she wrapped up her three-day visit to the South Asian nation.
“We need to continue our humanitarian work and are committed to remaining here and providing humanitarian assistance to all those in need, wherever they are,” said Ms. Bragg, who serves as Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.
“It’s my observation that there are significant and immediate humanitarian needs resulting from the recent flooding in the east, as well as the ongoing needs in the former conflict areas of the north,” she stated.
During her visit, the UN official travelled to the north, where she spoke with people who have recently returned home since being released from Government-run camps set up in 2009 at the end of the decades-long conflict between the Government and Tamil rebels.
“Most of the returnees currently have limited access to basic services such as shelter, water and sanitation and health care. These communities remain extremely vulnerable and have critical humanitarian needs that we must address immediately.”
In her meetings with government ministers, Ms. Bragg reaffirmed the commitment of the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to remaining in Sri Lanka to help the Government, especially in rebuilding the north.
Ms. Bragg also visited the worst flood-affected areas in the east of the country and launched a flash appeal to raise $51 million in emergency funds for the one million people who are now in need of assistance.
The flooding – which reached an almost 100 year high – has driven more than 360,000 people from their homes, killed 43 people, and totally destroyed some 6,000 homes. People are now returning to their homes, but 10,000 people still remain displaced in temporary relocation centres.
Ms. Bragg had noted during her visit that the floods are “an enormous and tragic setback” for a community that is slowly rebuilding their lives following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and recovering from the decades-long conflict. ~ UN.org ~