The May monsoon season pounded southwestern Sri Lanka with the equivalent of a month’s rainfall in just two days, causing widespread landslides, damaging settlements and infrastructure, and devastating farmlands. More than 500 mm of rain fell in just 24 hours in some parts of the country. Some 200 people died and 550,000 were affected by floods and/or landslides in 15 districts in the southwest part of the country. The hardest hit areas were Ratnapura and Matara districts, where more than 325,000 people were affected.
Improved access to clean water and hygiene as well as early livelihood recovery
Close to 75,000 people are residing in temporary safe centres. That’s because approximately 1,500 homes have been completely destroyed and another 7,600 have been partially damaged. Shops, banks and markets have also been affected,leaving many families already living below the poverty line without access to goods, services and a source of income. Due to the extent of the damage, these livelihood opportunities will likely not resume for months. Sources of clean water and sanitation services have also been greatly affected, increasing the risk of disease.
Displaced and returnee households have improved access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Flood and landslide-affected vulnerable households have improved food security and livelihoods.
• Provide hygiene and disinfection kits. Oxfam will distribute 2,700 hygiene kits and 2,700 disinfection kits to the most vulnerable families, selected in collaboration with communities. The contents for both kits were determined through consultations with affected communities, including women, as well as government authorities.
• Provide clean water. Access to clean water is a major concern in emergency safe centres, and will continue to be as residents move to temporary camps. As such, Oxfam will work with the government to provide safe drinking water to those displaced in the centres and camps. The project will provide 21,000 L of water for seven camps for a period of two months, providing 15 litres of water per person per day.
• Well cleaning. Many wells were contaminated by the floods. While the government is assessing the level of contamination, Oxfam’s initial assessment shows more than 3,000 contaminated wells. The proposed project will help returnee communities to clean 450 wells.
• Cash-for-work activities. A key challenge for people returning to their homes and communities is the resumption of their livelihoods. In addition, debris left behind by the floods and landslides pose serious health and safety risks. This component of the project will help address both these issues. This activity will help inject cash into the community so that people can meet their immediate food security needs and re-stock lost assets.
Oxfam has been working in Sri Lanka for more than 30 years on a number of humanitarian and development programs, with a particular focus on empowering women and girls. The organization has responded to seven emergencies in the country over the past five years, continuously investing in building the capacity of local humanitarian partners. Oxfam’s humanitarian teams are experts in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), gender and food security, and helping people resume their livelihoods as quickly as possible. Oxfam plays a key role in the WASH and food security sector in Sri Lanka, and was appointed lead of the WASH sectorial group as agreed by the Humanitarian Country Team.