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Sri Lanka: Floods and Landslides Emergency appeal n° MDRLK003, Preliminary final report

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Period covered by this Ops Update: 12 January 2011 to 31 March 2012

Appeal target (current): CHF 4.62 million

Appeal coverage: Including soft pledges, this appeal is 51 per cent covered.

Appeal history:

· This preliminary final report is being issued due to pending clearance of working advance. The final report will be issued on 31 August 2012 with a final financial report.

· The operations update no. 4 was issued on 9 January 2012, with operation extended for two months to 31 March 2012.

· A six-month consolidated report was covered in the operations update no. 3 was issued on 13 September 2011.

· This emergency appeal was revised on 26 January 2011 for CHF 4.62 million for 12 months to assist up to 75,000 people (15,000 families) affected by the floods.

· A preliminary emergency appeal was launched on 14 January 2011 for CHF 655,670 for six months to assist up to 70,000 people (14,000 families).

· Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF): CHF 100,166 was allocated from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ DREF to support the National Society to respond to the floods.


The consequences of the extreme weather starting late 2010 were tragic for many in Sri Lanka. Close to 1.2 million people in 18 out of 25 districts were affected in the Eastern, Northern, North‐central and Uva provinces of the country. The devastating floods were triggered by unusually protracted and heavy rains. 44 people were killed. Many of those who survived have described the floods as the worst they have experienced in the last five decades.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS), a leading indigenous humanitarian organization in Sri Lanka, played a vital role in mitigating the human suffering. Volunteers were mobilized from across the country to extend a helping hand to their fellow country men, women and children who had lost their family members, homes and livelihoods to treacherous waters. Thousands were helped to evacuate to safer grounds and were provided with first aid. Those with more serious injuries were transferred to nearby hospitals. Some 7,500 families were assisted by SLRCS alone with one or more emergency shelter and relief item (depending on their needs) mobilized from SLRCS contingency stocks. Items distributed included clothes, sleeping mats, tents, lanterns, candles, tarpaulin sheets, hygiene items and drinking water. SLRCS operated mobile first aid teams and a mobile kitchen. Some 20,000 people were provided with cooked food by SLRCS volunteers during the early days of the emergency. As soon as the flood waters subsided and access to the affected areas improved, Red Cross volunteers started to work side-by-side with local authorities and affected families to clean hospitals, homes, wells and schools for people to return to normal lives as soon as possible.

SLRCS efforts ensured those affected by the disaster had a basic minimum to protect their life, health and dignity. This would not have been possible without the generous support of Red Cross Red Crescent partners from around the globe and on behalf of the SLRCS and those affected by the disaster, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) takes this opportunity to thank all who showed compassion for those suffering in Sri Lanka. The SLRCS employees and hundreds of volunteers worked hard with disarming dedication to sooth pain and bring hope.

With immediate threat to lives gone, the operation shifted focus to supporting the worst of the flood affected families to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. 1,286 families received a shelter cash grant, and another 2,800 families were assisted to restart their livelihoods – paddy and other field crops (2,722 families, dairy cattle (13 families), inland reservoir fisheries (21 families) and poultry (43 families). The operation also supported 27 community-based disaster risk reduction initiatives – cleaning of irrigation channels, construction of retention walls and storage facilities as well as 95 latrines in 51 schools in flood prone areas.

The operation has tested SLRCS disaster management capacities and holds many lessons learned and it was vital to capture them to be better prepared for any future emergencies. With this in mind, in February 2012 an internal review meeting was held to take the stock of our achievements and challenges as well as recommendations. An external evaluation of the operation was also conducted. Final evaluation report is available upon request.

This preliminary final report is being issued due to pending clearance of working advance. The final report will be issued on 31 August 2012 with a final financial report.

Lessons learnt:

· Sri Lanka Red Cross Society has real strength in relief following years of experience of relief as well as seasonal floods and the Tsunami of 2004. The relief operation benefitted from lessons learned following the Tsunami where branches were strengthened as well as the capacity of SLRCS to respond with volunteers. SLRCS was one of the only organizations with a network presence in all areas affected in the floods and this was a significant assistance to government efforts in responding to the disaster.

· One of the greatest strengths of the SLRCS was in its branch disaster response team volunteers (BDRT) who are well trained and located locally in each area which added to the SLRCS immediate response capacity for both rapid field assessments and delivery of emergency relief items. Many staff and volunteers are also trained as national disaster response team (NDRT) members and regional disaster response teams (RDRT) which added to their competency and ability to deal with such a large scale disaster.

· There was clear evidence in all communities that the SLRCS’ process of engagement at the local level was participative starting ownership from the beginning. This was evident from the communities articulating their own role in deciding the focus of their project such as the size of house, type of livelihood and group choices in community projects. As a result, shelters were different sizes.

· There was evidence in most communities of catalysing local people into action such that they were actively seeking out additional solutions that could reduce their social vulnerability and capacity to be more resilient.

· The importance of the ownership of projects cannot be over-emphasized in the success of this programme. Interviews and discussions with households and communities showed how people were motivated to doing more based on what they had received and valued cash transfers over kind. They appeared to recognize that whilst the money they received was never enough to complete a house, what they had received was a sustainable start and it was up to them to find solutions for themselves.

· A key impact in all communities relating to livelihoods was the break in the debt cycle so that they were no longer trapped into borrowing at high interest to grow their crops, only to give most of it back leaving no capital to buy the seeds they needed for the next season. They were now describing being able to use some of the profit to access other needs for living and even think about children’s’ education, thus reducing future vulnerability.

· The community irrigation channel/seasonal tank/dam projects identified and built by the community have had a very positive effect on the community, servicing not only the key beneficiaries of this programme but others in the surrounding areas.

· Once adjusted, most communities acknowledged the fairness of the process and criteria for selecting beneficiaries and this is directly related to the thorough way in which SLRCS engaged with communities and allowed them to critique and amend the beneficiary lists. Comments from communities included a cultural concern that everyone should receive assistance but recognized that since this was not possible, those who did receive grants did warrant the assistance over others who were less vulnerable.

The situation

Heavy monsoon rains from November 2010 to February 2011 triggered devastating floods in 18 of the country’s 25 districts in the eastern, northern, north‐central and Uva provinces. According to the data published by the Government of Sri Lanka, close to 1.2 million people (319,451 families) were affected. Hundreds of families had to leave their homes to find refuge in temporary evacuation centres set up by the government in schools and community buildings across the island. The most severely affected were the districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara and Polonnaruwa. Homes, bridges, roads and other infrastructure were damaged or washed away. Thousands of the affected families lost their livelihoods. The data provided by the government and confirmed by SLRCS assessments show some 30,000 houses were partially or completely damaged and 300,000 hectares of rice paddy was destroyed.