Sri Lanka

Dengue fever fears grow as rains cause flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka

Eight people have died and more than 38,000 people have been affected by dangerous storms and heavy rains, which lashed central and southern Sri Lanka in recent days.

Five districts suffered major flooding with some receiving up to 35cm of rain in just a few days. The government has issued a landslide warning in seven districts, and urged people in low-lying areas near swollen rivers to be extra vigilant.

Save the Children Country Director in Sri Lanka, Chris McIvor, warned that the situation could get even worse with more heavy rains predicted over the next few weeks as the monsoon season begins in earnest.

“If the rains continue as feared over the coming days and weeks the humanitarian situation is going to become more severe, with more homes inundated, more damage and destruction and more lives on the line,” Mr McIvor said.

“Making matters worse, many of the communities battling these rains were also heavily impacted by flooding last year. They’re still getting their lives back on track, and now they face another disaster and another recovery process.”

The government reported that three of the deaths were caused by lightning strikes, two from falling trees, two from floods and one from high winds.

During the 2017 floods in Sri Lanka more than 600,000 people were displaced and over 200 people died. The floods also exacerbated a major outbreak of dengue fever, which saw more than 180,000 people infected with the disease.

“Given we saw a surge in the number of dengue cases during the floods last year, there is concern that we could see a larger number of cases this year too,” Mr McIvor said.

“We’re only at the beginning of Sri Lanka’s monsoon season and yet we’ve already seen heavy rains hitting the country. It’s worrying to say the least.”

Save the Children staff have been assessing the damage in the most affected areas, witnessed rapidly rising waters. Several roads were impassable because of burst riverbanks and some 75 families were seen staying in makeshift camps after having to flee their homes because of flood and landslides, the assessment team reported.

During the 2017 floods Save the Children mounted a major humanitarian response, distributing thousands of vital household items like tarpaulins and shelter kits, hygiene items like soap and buckets, and back to school kits, as well as setting up child friendly spaces and providing child protection training for officials managing displaced persons camps.

The aid agency also ran a cash transfer programme for vulnerable families to support their longer-term recovery, and collaborated with local government authorities to improve emergency preparedness.

For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on +66 (0)989 725 908.