20 September 2011, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Australian Government, in partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), has assisted 3,785 returnee families to reconstruct or repair their damaged houses in the districts of Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Killinochchi under the 'Shelter Support to Conflict Affected IDPs in Northern Sri Lanka' Project.
To mark the completion of the 18 month, LKR 1 billion project, the Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, H.E. Kathy Klugman, visited Kallaru village in Killinochchi District on 20th September 2011, to officially hand over 100 houses constructed under the Project. Government officials, UN-HABITAT representatives and members of the local communities participated in this opening ceremony.
It is estimated that three decades of civil conflict in the north and east of Sri Lanka destroyed about 160,000 houses including 100,000 in the Northern Province. Recognizing the urgent need to facilitate the dignified return of those displaced, UN-HABITAT, together with the Australian Government responded quickly to establish the programme in January 2010. The project has now helped families in over 40 villages to rebuild their homes. It has been an important contribution to the Government of Sri Lanka's efforts to ensure the Northern Province continues to recover from the impact of the conflict.
In total, around 1,110 acutely vulnerable families received support to completely rebuild their homes while 2,675 families received support to undertake major repairs to their damaged houses. It is estimated that around 12,000 people will live in these homes. Mr.Sithamparapillai Thiyagarajah, a project beneficiary from Puliyankulam North, Vavuniya said "We appreciate the trust shown by the Australian Government and UN-HABITAT by providing us funding to build our house. Owning our own home has given us a sense of peace and security. This has given us new courage and self confidence to face the future. I am proud to say that my family and I provided the majority of the labour required for the construction" he further added.
Using a 'home owner driven' approach, the project has assisted families to actively take charge of their own recovery. The families were responsible for the planning, implementation and monitoring of their own progress. High Commissioner Klugman said "The Australian Government was committed to supporting the people of Sri Lanka in their reconstruction and recovery efforts and I am happy that the partnership with UN-HABITAT has helped a large number of people so quickly". She also said that the home owner driven approach applied in this project has not only assisted people to reconstruct their houses, but has also empowered conflict affected families to rebuild their lives with a sense of independence and dignity.
Mr Laxman Perera, UN-HABITAT Programme Manager for Sri Lanka said that the Australian Government's quick response to fund this housing project had resulted in uplifting the lives of conflict affected people through the provision of permanent shelter." UN-HABITAT firmly believes in a people's participatory process which helps the beneficiaries express and fulfill their needs and expectations whilst ensuring a sense of ownership. We remain committed towards further supporting families to rebuild their destroyed and damaged homes in the affected districts and assist communities in experiencing the positive benefits of peace" he further stated.
UN-HABITAT has been playing a key role in supporting thousands of Sri Lankan families to rebuild their lives and regain normalcy in post conflict and post disaster situations during the past three decades. The Australian Government and UN-HABITAT are continuing to work together through a second phase of the housing reconstruction programme, to which the Australian Government has already contributed LKR 350 million.