Sri Lanka: Drought Emergency appeal n° MDRLK004 - Operation update n°1

Period covered by this Ops Update: 2 to 30 November 2012

Appeal target (current): This Emergency Appeal seeks CHF 1,070,504 in cash, kind, or services to support the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) to assist 20,000 drought affected families (some 125,000 people) for 18 months. The operation will be completed by 28 April 2014. A Final Report will be made available by 28 July 2014. CHF 145,336 was allocated from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support this operation. Un-earmarked funds to replenish DREF are encouraged. Based on the situation, this Emergency Appeal responds to a request from SLRCS, and focuses on providing early recovery and longer-term food security assistance to the most drought affected families and complements the relief assistance provided by the Government of Sri Lanka.

Appeal coverage: 17 per cent based on current appeal budget, including DREF allocation.

Appeal history:

· Emergency Appeal: Launched on 2 November 2012 for CHF 1,070,504 for 18 months to assist 125,000 beneficiaries.

· Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF): CHF 145,336 was allocated from IFRC’s DREF to support SLRCS’s response.

Summary:

A month after the Emergency Appeal was launched, the situation in the drought affected areas remains grave. Drought conditions are persisting in the seven districts targeted by the Emergency Appeal. Many people in remote rural areas are still having difficulties to access safe drinking water, where many water sources have been contaminated and wells dried. While interrupting the prolonged dry spell (which lasted for over seven months), the October and November rainfall lasted for a few weeks, however was insufficient to refill water wells and crucially, irrigation tanks to provide agricultural water for farmers to start the Maha cropping season[1].

Anticipating monsoon rains, farmers are getting ready for the Maha cropping season in all seven districts. Many farmers, however, do not have any resources (seeds, fertilizer, and farming equipment) to kick start their livelihood activities. While some farmers managed to recover, many who have lost their harvest for the second consecutive season are heavily indebted to the banks. There are some who cannot afford to procure seeds and fertilizers to prepare their lands for the Maha season; these are the poorest of the poor whose coping mechanisms have been undermined by the disaster. Based on the SLRCS assessment, those living in rural remote areas are the most vulnerable falling through community safety networks and not benefitting from large scale reconstruction efforts in their region. Thus this Emergency Appeal largely goes to assisting these most affected and vulnerable people.

To date, donor response has been slow to the appeal, constraining SLRCS efforts to respond to the immediate needs of the affected communities. SLRCS reiterates its appeal for assistance, especially in responding to livelihood and community sustainability activities.

CHF 145,336 was allocated from IFRC’s DREF to support SLRCS in responding to the most urgent needs in continuation to the emergency safe drinking water distribution done by SLRCS in August and September 2012. Some 70 volunteers were mobilized in seven branches and oriented on operation targets and objectives. SLRCS’s branches have selected 27 grama niladari divisions and 280 schools in partnership with district secretariats and the agrarian services department to install water storage tanks to enable access to safe drinking water. Also branches are in the process of selecting 1,400 most affected households to support with cash grants to start livelihood activities during the Maha cropping season. With limited resources raised, SLRCS is prioritising the most vulnerable who will not be able to recover without external support.

Though government efforts are ongoing to rehabilitate major irrigation tanks and irrigation canals, there is additional need of rehabilitating rural level minor irrigation tanks and canals. Current needs assessments done by the branch offices show more needs on alternative livelihoods for non-farming people and also providing diversified livelihood options for food security resistance for extreme climatic conditions. The onset of the north east monsoon may further aggravate the situation, hence continuous monitoring and assessment is required.