Monday, 27 September 2010

Building houses in Kilinochichi - Sri Lanka

I have been travelling in the north of Sri Lanka for the past two days and visited Kilinochchi today, where the Sri Lanka Red Cross, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the German Red Cross, is assisting internally displaced people.. To date we have 600 houses under construction and have an initial  target of 2000. Unfortunately we have inadequate funding so I am appealing to all of you out there, to see if you can help us. The situation for some 200,000 families is quite desperate as the rainy season has just arrived and the villages are awash with waters, and when the sun came out as it did today, it was 38 degree celcius.. Not good conditions for people who have been traumatised by 25 plus years of conflict.

Vimala Raja is a 42 year old war widow with five children. She has lived the last year in a rough lean to shack, and will soon move into a new Red Cross house. In this photo she is with her two youngest children. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The few poles in the foreground are the remains of the house Vimala and her children lived in for almost a year. Her new Red Cross built house, made of reinforced concrete blocks, is in the background. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Arunasalam lost his son, house and his pottery wheel during the war, but the potter in Vivekanandanagar is throwing his pots on a new hand driven wheel he made himself. Photo: Bob McKerrow 

Arunasalem is the recepient of a new Red Cross house that should be completed in 2 weeks time. Photo: Bob McKerrow.

Arunasalam and his wife, who has recently been enrolled in the SLRCS Recovery Programme have worked hard to erect their owner-driven home. Arunasalam is busy making clay pots while he is telling about his still missing son. “I last saw him during the final days of the conflict in Mulaitivu when we were all running and hiding from the shelling and the bullets. That is when we got separated one afternoon. We have not seen or heard from him after.” Still living under tarpaulins many people like Mr. Arunasalam are struggling under difficult conditions but working hard to regain their lives.

It is good to see these owner driven houses nearing completion. Once they have the orange tiles for a roof, and the windows and doors in, they are very comfortable for a large family.Photo: Bob McKerrow
My travelling companions over the last few days, Alice Lai left and Dr. Mahesh Gunasekara. Guess what, they speak Mandarin together as Alice is from Hong Kong and Mahesh did his medical degree in China and is fluent in Mandarin. Alice is from our Asia and Pacific HQ is Kuala Lumpur. Nimal, from the Sri Lanka Red Cross, who is a livelihoods expert, also travelled with us. He and his team are a highly competent unit with almost six years of owner-driven housing experience gained during the Tsunami operation.

Here is some information from an information sheet we have just written:

The situation in the north of Sri Lanka is desperate for hundreds of thousands of old and new IDPs, who lack decent shelter, water, sanitation, access to adequate health, tools and seeds to plant, and other basic livelihoods. YOUR HELP IS NEEDED.

During the conflict in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) was at the forefront of humanitarian action, providing services to survivors and assisting vulnerable people in a coordinated operation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The activities were supported by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Cross Red Crescent partners around the world. With the end of the military conflict the SLRCS has initiated a programme to rebuild communities and enhance the current low standard of living for marginalised people in Northern Province through an integrated recovery programme. In the initial stage we will construct up to 2000 houses, with water sanitation, access to health and livelihoods.

The owner-driven housing concept is where the owner receives advance payements through their bank accounts for each pahse. When foundations are finished and inspected, they receive the next payment. With a total of four installments a house can be finished in less than two months.

Our Programme Aims

• To support the return, resettlement and recovery of the population who were displaced by the conflict and, where

necessary, to provide temporary humanitarian support for those still displaced.

• To provide housing, water and sanitation, health facilities, livelihoods and counselling for traumatised people. •

• To restore civil society in areas directly affected by the conflict by re-establishing the Kilinochchi and Mulativu branches of SLRCS, and strengthening existing branches whcih will bring sustainable humanitarian services to communities.

Target Population

This programme is primarily in support of people who have been displaced due to the conflict in Sri Lanka and are either still displaced or in the process of resettlement. Secondly, the programme can provide support to host communities or those who have been displaced for longer periods, as is considered necessary on the grounds of equity or conflict sensitivity vis-à-vis the primary beneficiary group. The initial primary target area for the programme is Kilinochchi, and Mulativu districts.

Our action so far

Since recovery programme started in June based on German RC funding, the programme has scaled up capacities and emerged from it’s pilot phase to a well-established delivery mechanism. At the same time recovery programme is supporting and working with the newly re-established Kilinochchi branch. From its new Field Coordination Office in Vavuniya the SLRCS team, largely consisting of well experienced former tsunami recovery staff, now works with 2000 families and is at this point the single biggest reconstruction effort on-going by any humanitarian organisation in Killinochchi.

Sadly, the uncovered need remains huge with up to 260,000 destroyed homes to be reconstructed. Returnees are living under the most difficult conditions using basic type of make shift shelters made of tarps and tin sheets. Everyone you speak to has a tough and moving story to tell. . Post Conflict Recovery Programme is giving the most vulnerable of them hope and the basic support desperately needed. SLRCS hopes to expand programmes with bilateral support of German Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross and the appeal funding to up to 2000 houses and 5000 families in the near future.
If you wish to make a donation please visit the following website which is safe and reliable:


Anjana Dayal de Prewitt (Gudia) said...

Thanks for sharing the information and great photos. It is good to see that Mr. Arunasalam is well on his way to recovery and I hope and pray that he and his family soon finds out about their missing son.

Once again, thanks for the good work. Our best wishes are with you and others who are supporting this work.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Dear Anjana

Yes Arunasalem, Vivekanadanagar and many surrounding villages are getting better. Hoiuses are springing up, but water and sanitation and livelihoods are the next priority.

Thanks for your comments. Bob

Al said...

Fantastic report Bob. Very glad to see this programme is moving along so well. Keep up the good work and good reporting.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Thanks Al, The programme is going exceptionally well due to the commitment of the Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers and staff who gained so much experience on owner driven housing during the Tsunami operation. Now they are so efficient, so expert that it is a joy to see.


Dear Bob,

This was very helpful to me to get an overall picture of the Post Conflict Recovery and Reconstruction Programme. I am joining the GRC soon for the owner driven housing programme once I get my visa.

Nikhil Khanna

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Dear Nikil

I am pleased this was useful. The German RC are doing a fine job supporting the SLRCS housing programme for IDPs. I hope you get your visa soon, and I look forward to seeing you.

Safe travels, Bob

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