In May, 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). The LTTE was a rebel group fighting for what they called a separate homeland for the Tamil people. The Sri Lankan government as well as most of the world including the US, UK, and India called the LTTE a terrorist group. The declaration of the military victory over the LTTE by the Sri Lankan government came after 26 years of brutal war. Over that period, more than 70,000 people were killed and almost a million were displaced. The United Nations estimated that over 7,000 people were killed and about 300,000 people displaced in the final phase of the war that began early in 2009.
The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, the largest community based organization in Sri Lanka, was at the forefront of supporting the people displaced by the war. As early as July, 2008, Sarvodaya began coordinating relief programs through its district centers in the north and east of the country. Initially, a small number of people streamed out from areas formerly controlled by the LTTE. Fewer than 10,000 escaped the conflict in early 2009 but a huge influx of refugees began in the middle of April. By the end of the war in May, the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps swelled into almost 300,000 people. Most of them had fled with few belongings or and little or no food. They had survived inhumane conditions under the daily barrage of shellsand sounds of gunfire. The 32 camps in Jaffna, Trincomalee, Mannar, and Vavuniya districts housed the displaced population. Sarvodaya provided services to 23 camps including the six zones at Menik Farm.
Mobilizing Local Resources
In the early period of the relief effort, Sarvodaya mobilized its national network to provide food and other essential services. Sarvodaya villages throughout the country, including in the south, collected food and clothes and sent truckloads of products to the camps. Sarvodaya Societies, village level Sarvodaya institutions in Puttalam and Kurunegala districts, collected over 12,000 coconuts. Matara communities collected about 2,500 kilograms of rice. Through the support of individual philanthropists, local organizations, schools, and business over $68,000 worth of goods were collected. Hundreds of volunteers came together to help the people who needed urgent support. Many came to Sarvodaya’s centers in Vavuniya to cook and distribute meals.
Since the beginning of 2009, Sarvodaya has provided over 1,176,541 meals. About 100,000 people in several camps benefitted from Sarvodaya’s water, sanitation and medical services. A mobile library brought books to children who had no educational materials. Sarvodaya’s legal services helped families recover their birth certificates and other legal documents. The Community Health Unit provided 5,000 severely malnourished children with a high-energy diet and brought them to normal health. Overall, About 200,000 people benefited from Sarvodaya’s assistance.
By early 2010, about two thirds of the displaced population were allowed to return to their home communities, often to find their houses turned into rubble. Roads and water systems had been destroyed. Schools must now be rebuilt, hospital and health facilities constructed, and returnees must find opportunities to make a living. Many people, especially the young, must be trained in life skills and vocational trades.
Sarvodaya is one of the few organizations with direct access to these parts of the country, and is working with local communities, the Sri Lankan government and international partners to launch an effective rehabilitation and reconstruction process. Your contributions has played a vital part, and your continued support can make a tremendous difference.
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