Sri Lankan communities affected by flooding and landslides receive support from CERF

Lara Palmisano

From 15 to 22 May, Tropical Storm Roanu battered Sri Lanka, triggering floods and landslides across the country.  Impacting 22 of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts, the storm caused the worst flooding in the country in 25 years. Homes were destroyed and entire villages submerged. Landslide warnings still remain in place, leaving affected people unable to return home. 

Approximately 403,000 people have been affected by the storm at its peak, with 296,349 displaced and living in temporary accommodation such as shelters, camps, schools, temples and with host families. At least 86 people have been killed and approximately 102 presumed dead. 

In response, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released US$4.6 million to humanitarian partners including IOM, UNFPA, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. These agencies will work closely with the Government of Sri Lanka and local NGOs to provide shelter, health, food, water and sanitation for 220,000 of the most vulnerable people. This will ensure that affected people and communities receive the time-critical assistance they need.  

“Many of the people affected are in urban areas and were already vulnerable. Now they have lost everything, including their homes, possessions, and livelihoods. They are in urgent need of assistance,” said Una McCauley, UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka.

CERF funds will enable the provision of emergency shelters for those whose houses have been completely destroyed, and shelter repair kits for those people whose homes can be repaired. Emergency cash disbursements for food packages and Non-food items such as sanitary packs will also be distributed.

“In some highly populated urban areas flooding destroyed much of the water and sanitation infrastructure, which must be urgently addressed. We are also concerned that any remaining stagnant water could lead to serious public health issues”, explained Una McCauley.

CERF funds will also support water and sanitation projects, including water storage and transportation, camp-based and household water treatment facilities,  and the construction of temporary latrines and waste management systems. 

Additionally, activities will be undertaken to help repair and restock local health facilities that were damaged in floods, and to provide logistical and technical support to mobile health teams. This will help to prevent the risk of water borne and communicable diseases. 

The unprecedented scale of the flooding is partially linked to the El Niño phenomenon that has affected the Asia and the Pacific region. Like many other countries affected by El Niño, Sri Lanka has experienced lower than average rainfall (with extended water shortages and drought), followed by sudden heavy rains and storms resulting in flooding and landslides. 

While Tropical Storm Roanu has now passed, more rain is expected, especially as the monsoon season sets in from May to September. This could cause additional floods and landslides in many of the same areas. Those who have lost or have had their homes damaged, are most at risk. The funding provided by CERF is time-critical and will enable humanitarian partners to provide relief efforts to many affected by this disaster.

For the latest updates on the situation in Sri Lanka visit ReliefWeb.  

Find more information on CERF El Niño related allocations here

Find out more about CERF Rapid Response Grants in 2016 here.