Sri Lanka’s humanitarian effort
The Sri Lankan state is in the process of
compiling a study on the humanitarian projects carried out by the
government in post-conflict times in the North. Following are some of
the focuses of this study
During the period January 2008 to early May 2009, 58,393 metric tons
of essential items were sent to Killinochchi and Mullaithivu districts
alone. This was in addition to the excess paddy available in the
districts, the buffer stocks maintained on location and 33,383 metric
tons supplied to co-operative outlets during 2008 up to January 2009.
courses for IDP youth. File photo
Every month, five to 600,000 litres of fuel was sent to each
district, well knowing that if it falls into the hands of the LTTE. The
fuel was to be used primarily for operation of hospitals and essential
services such as transport. Fuel was also made available to operate
vehicles of UN, ICRC and other agencies (including NGOs) engaged in
humanitarian assistance. Supply of kerosene oil was ensured so that the
civilians could cook, operate their farming equipment, and meet other
After the WFP and other organizations relocated to Vavuniya towards
the latter part of 2008, during a four-month period from October that
year, the WFP carried 12 convoys delivering 7,694 metric tons of food to
the districts of Killinochchi and Mullaithivu.
In October 2008, when WFP consignments were delayed, CGES intervened
and directed GA Vavuniya to purchase and dispatch to Killinochchi and
Mullaithivu an emergency consignment costing Rs. 63 million of sugar,
lentils, flour and vegetable oil. CGES issued orders to maintain a three
month buffer stock of 750-1,000 metric tons in each district costing
With the commencement of use of sea routes in January 2009 inspite of
unwillingness of vessels to sail to Mullaivaikkal and Putumattalan, CGES
made arrangements to send 4,218 metric tons of food, but was only able
to deliver 3,150 metric tons.
Large quantities of medicines were also delivered using the sea
routes. On April 28, 2009, the merchant vessel MV Thirupathi with a
cargo of 1,068 metric tons of essential items had to be diverted to
Jaffna from Putumattalan as the LTTE prevented unloading of supplies.
The Sri Lankan government continued to maintain the school network
and provide education for the children. All salaries of education
personnel, including those serving in school in un-cleared areas was
paid by GoSL. Free schoolbooks were regularly distributed along with
school uniforms. The two important national examinations, General
Certificate of Education - Ordinary Level and Advanced Level, were
conducted, in spite of attempts by the LTTE to prevent students from
sitting the examination and gaining entry into Universities.
In 2008, about 80 percent of the eligible students under the new
syllabus and about 50 percent under the old syllabus sat for the
Advanced Level examination.
Sri Lankan government continued to staff and run medical hospitals in
the conflict areas sending medical supplies at regular intervals in
quarterly cycles. Medical supplies for hospitals in un-cleared areas
were handed over to the RDHS at Omanthai. There were approximately 900
government health staff in Mullaithivu and Killinochchi alone. These
supplies and services were supplimented by ICRC and INGOs. Following the
forcible civilian displacement, government health services provided by
the Northern Provincial Council moved with the people towards
Mullaithivu together with health staff.
Patients requiring further treatment were initially transferred by
road, and thereafter by sea when road travel was not possible. Nearby
hospitals (Vavuniya) were used for treatment. When transportation by sea
commenced they were treated at Trincomalee and Padaviya hospitals, which
were quickly upgraded with supplies and equipment. An Indian field
hospital established in Pulmudai provided emergency treatment.
GoSL also sent medical experts regularly to monitor nutritional
levels, sending necessary supplies for the use by children under five
years and pregnant and lactating mothers. Following the detection of
nutritional high-energy biscuits in the possession of LTTE cadres, the
GoSL sent Thriposha and Soya blend as an alternative. On January 17,
2011, the New Yorker reported that during the last days of the hostage
rescue operations, children found chocolates and meat in LTTE bunkers.
The facilities at the welfare villages took many forms. Shelter was
provided as tents, because many relief agencies were reluctant to accede
to the government request to provide more permanent structures fearing
that such would result in the IDPs being held in the village for more
than necessary periods of time. Each welfare village was divided into
blocks of shelters (tents), which had their own kitchens, toilets, water
points, tube wells, bathing, and child friendly spaces. Special priority
was given for recreational areas. Shelters were provided with
electricity and toilets located within accessible distances. Later,
nearing the monsoon rains, the GoSL issued two bags of cement per tent
to maintain dry floors. More than 20 litres of water per person per day
was delivered and used.
In addition for bathing and other purposes, water supply was
increased to 40 litres. Separate bathing areas for women were
specifically constructed. The water services provided met and exceeded
Sphere standard adopted by WHO as the standard for emergency situations.
Absence of water related epidemics demonstrate the efficacy of the
water and sanitation provided. Special public health inspectors we
appointed monitor the water sources. Communicable diseases that had
infected some of the IDPs while in captivity of the LTTE was quickly
treated and effectively controlled from spreading. Even with the monsoon
rains, there was not a single case of dengue within the village.
Cooked food packets were initially distributed, to be followed by
cooked meals. Thereafter progressively community kitchens we built, and
individual family cooking introduced as the next step. WFP provided
basic rations complemented by civil society (e.g. Rotary International)
providing other complementary foods and equipment.
The people in all parts of the country galvanized its efforts to send
in enormous quantities of humanitarian assistance, continuously for
several months. Ultimately, such efforts had to be suspended due
logistical difficulties in coping with the quantum of assistance.
Doctors and others volunteered their services and the public officials
who were IDPs were engaged and salaries paid. Establishment of
Cooperative outlets, facilitating sale of products of IDPs to commence
their livelihood activities were also arranged. Nutrition surveys were
carried out as part of health review of the IDPs.
Emphasis was given to the preventive side of healthcare. A dedicated
Medical Officer was appointed to be in charge of each welfare village,
functioning as healthcare managers as well.
Vocational training institutes
Medical supplies were provided on time in adequate quantities. Each
village had a referral hospital and a primary health care centre with
separate wards for male and female patients. In addition specially made
three-wheeler ambulances were provided for each village.
Subsequently special mental health clinics were conducted to deal
with psychological issues faced by IDPs with ‘Happiness Centres’ for
children with television, computers, books, drawing material, and other
recreation equipment. Crude daily mortality rate (deaths per day per
10,000 population) settled at less than 0.5 per 10,000 per day, which is
the threshold rate for South East Asia.
Schools were established in all main welfare villages for all levels
of children along with pre-schools and vocational training institutes. A
Zonal Director of Education was appointed to each village to coordinate
The Examination Department conducted examinations through 10 centres
allowing children including 166 ex-LTTE child soldiers to sit for their
respective examinations. UNICEF and other NGOs partnered with GoSL.
In all welfare villages places of religious worship of different
denominations we established for worship. Substantial banking facilities
were provided and both state and private sector banks established
outlets/branches. The banks had a total of 1908.7 million rupees (US$
17.3 Million) as deposits.
Special arrangements were made to help IDPs reconstruct their legal
documents and their legal identities. Temporary identity cards were
issued to all adults. Several NGOs conducted programmes within the
village explaining to the IDPs their rights and the way to access
governmental and other services.
Communication centres and post offices (total of 61) were
established. The village inhabitants were connected with the rest of the
world. Special transport port facilities were provided to attend
funerals etc outside the village.
Resettlement process commenced with demining progressing and the
concurrent development of essential infrastructure. Prior to this IDPs
such as elders, pregnant mothers, families with infants, differently
abled persons, patients with chronic and serious illnesses, university
students, priests, and non nationals were sent to their next of kin with
a written assurance that they will be looked after.
GoSL has completed the resettlement of a large number of IDPs in
their places of origin. The IDP crisis that was faced by the GoSL was
enormous in comparison to any standard. The GoSL together with UN led
humanitarian partners faced the challenge and successfully overcame the
attending difficulties to complete what could be termed a major
achievement in the field of humanitarian assistance.