Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Sri Lanka 2010

30 November 2009

Following from the escalation of the conflict in the Northern Vanni area during 2008, heavy fighting continued in early 2009.  During the first months of the year, large numbers of civilians were trapped in close proximity to the fighting.  Despite high levels of insecurity and increasing hardship created by growing shortages of food, medicine and basic services, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) prevented civilians from leaving the area.  On 20 January, the Sri Lankan military designated a “safe zone” between the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu but fighting soon engulfed this area and the civilian population was forced eastward.  Although several thousands of civilians managed to flee during the first months of 2009, the majority ended up on a small strip of land on the North-Eastern coast in the District of Mullaitivu, where the final battles of the conflict were fought in April and May.  On 18 May 2009 the President of Sri Lanka declared the country’s 26 year-long conflict with the LTTE separatist movement over.  

During the end stages of the conflict, nearly 300,000 people fled the Northern Vanni region, the vast majority into the North-Central district of Vavuniya.  From early 2009, the Government of Sri-Lanka (GoSL) provided significant resources for land clearing, drainage, electricity, water supply to set up displacement camps.  Menik Farm, located outside of Vavuniya, grew to include nine zones and at the height of the emergency accommodated over 225,000 people.  In support of the Government’s lead, UN agencies and NGOs provided food, safe water supply and adequate sanitation facilities household and hygiene materials as well as support for education, health and nutritional services to IDPs in camps.  Against large-scale needs, the initial humanitarian response in 2009 faced many challenges which included crowded IDP sites, overstretched health, education, water supply and sanitation infrastructure, strains on distribution mechanism and inconsistent access for humanitarian organizations.  

As the post-conflict situation stabilized, basic conditions inside IDP camps improved.  In contrast, there was little progress on freedom of movement restrictions on place for IDP in camps until late in the year when the Government began to release vulnerable people into host and community care.  On 1 December the GoSL announced that camps would be open.  Since then several thousands of IDP have been moving outside of the camps each day, although a registration and pass systems remains in place in most of the sites. 

Shortly after the end of the conflict, the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province (PTF) announced a 180-day plan which included the intention to resettle 70% or more of the displaced population by the end of 2009.  Initially, the pace of returns was slow but with the announcement on 22 October of an accelerated resettlement programme, nearly84,000 were moved to their districts of origin or released into host or community care during the following month.  Rapid progress has continued and as of the end of December, nearly 66% the population is back in their home districts.  Many of these returns however, are not yet completed as obstacles remain to bring people back to their homes.  A key priority now is to ensure that returns are safe and that minimum service conditions are in place to support sustainable resettlement.  As an essential precondition to this process, increased emphasis is being placed on humanitarian demining and increasing capacity to support essential services led by the GoSL.

The total request for the 2010 CHAP is $ 337,688,785 proposed by 55 organizations to implement 173 projects in the Northern and Eastern districts of Sri Lanka.  The CHAP covers both support for the return process and care and maintenance for a residual caseload of IDPs who are expected to remain in camps for some months into 2010.  The priority caseload of concern agreed in the 2010 CHAP is  386,600 out of a larger caseload of  539,00 vulnerable persons, consisting of IDPs from the most recent phase of displacement as well as those still displaced from the 2006 to 2008 period, refugee returning from India and newly returned / resettled persons.  Close coordination with the GoSL at national and district levels is key to successful implementation of CHAP projects, both to address remaining relief needs for the still vulnerable conflict-affected groups but also to begin to move toward meaningful stabilization, which can offer a true peace dividend. 

The multi-faceted nature of the response, together with continued operational complexities, has been figured into the overall appeal requirements.  With families moving from centrally located camps to their homes in 29 divisions in five different districts, significant and flexible resources are required.  In many of the return areas, houses and infrastructure have been ravaged by conflict and neglect and both temporary and medium-term interventions are needed to support the basic needs of the returning population.  While the GoSL has moved quickly to put in place basic structures, the capacity and resources offered by the wider UN and NGO community is crucial to effectively respond to the scale of the needs, both for those still in camps as well as to ensure sustainability of the resettlement process.

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30 November 2009

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