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Lanka’s displaced return home – time to honour funding pledges says World Vision

[AlertNet, Friday, 6 November 2009 11:29 No Comment]

World Vision Lanka on Friday appealed for urgent funding from donors who had previously pledged to support the return and resettlement process of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Sri Lanka as the long awaited move gathered pace.

"We have been advocating for returns to happen as soon as possible and now that it is finally taking place, it is time for those who pledged to support the return to honour those commitments," said World Vision Lanka’s National Director, Suresh Bartlett.

"World Vision is urgently seeking a minimum of USD 2 million to support the return of the IDPs back to their homes and helping them to rebuild their lives. We have been supporting the emergency relief phase and would like to play a key role in the return phase," he added.

In the last week of October 2009, there was a significant increase in the numbers of people released from the camps to their original homes or other locations within their home districts. These areas included Jaffna, Vavuniya, the Mannar rice bowl, and regions of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi. Nearly 100,000 people have now been released from the camps and around 2000 persons are being resettled daily.

"We all have a moral responsibility to assist these fractured communities – especially the children – to heal and to rebuild their lives and have a real chance of creating a future for themselves once again. We should not allow the situation to ever return to the era of bitter mistrust and conflict." said Bartlett.

With its vast experience in relief and rehabilitation work and a presence in the north for the last 15 years, World Vision can add value to the current return and resettlement programme by supporting livelihood asset recovery and complementary sectors of shelter, water, sanitation, child protection, and local capacities for peace.

When the war with the LTTE ended in May 2009, over 280,000 persons from the north were housed in displacement camps posing a huge challenge to the Government and aid agencies to support them. In June, the Government announced it would resettle 80% of the IDPs still in displacement camps in a special 180-day resettlement programme.

Resettlement has been slow due to screening processes, clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance and the lack of basic infrastructure to support the setting up of livelihoods for returnees.

Some releases took place in August and September but these were mainly those identified as persons with special needs and the elderly – most of whom were released to host families. The momentum however escalated in October as the Government began a resettlement programme which has seen around 2000 persons being released every day.

World Vision has been assisting those in the camps with water, food, shelter, non-food relief items as well as nutrition, education and psychosocial programmes for children. World Vision has also set up Child Friendly Spaces and Temporary Learning Shelters for over 3500 children.

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