Sri Lanka

Flash Floods - June 2008 - Sri Lanka

News and Press Release
Originally published
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Funds allocated:
US$ 23 500

Affected population:
16 killed and 173 778 affected

The emergency

On 2 June 2008, heavy monsoon rains triggered flash floods in southwest Sri Lanka. The water swept over five districts (Kalutara, Ratnapura, Colombo, Galle and Gampaha), killing 16 and affecting 173 778 people, according to official estimates. Landslides further added to the emergency.

Funds allocated

Immediately after the disaster, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health and Nutrition requested 2 500 000 LKR (around US$ 23 500) from WHO, for distribution to the five most-affected districts. The funds were for procurement of essential items as well as fuel for mobile health care services. WHO released the amount for equal distribution to the five districts.

How it made a difference

Clean water for communities becomes a problem when the flood waters seep into village wells. Lack of clean drinking water leads to an increased risk of water- and food-borne diseases like diarrhoea. Pools of water left behind by the receding rivers provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit dengue and malaria. And, as the people forced out of their homes by the water and the mud crowd into refugee camps, there is the danger of an epidemic. The challenge in this emergency was to prevent these health issues from spiralling out of control. That is where SEARHEF funds made a difference.

Essential medicines

Funds were used to purchase basic drugs and chemicals to treat the wounded and sick, and to procure food for volunteers and the displaced alike.

Clean water

Disinfectants were bought and wells were cleaned so that people could have access to safe water.

Disease surveillance

SEARHEF funds allowed disease surveillance systems to be set up, so that communicable diseases could be tackled early before they became epidemics.

Vector-borne disease

SEARHEF supported work to clean up vector-breeding places.

Health education

To successfully manage public health in emergencies, however, the support and cooperation of the affected people is vital. SEARHEF played a vital role in funding health education activities to make the public aware of the potential dangers and how they can be prevented. Leaflets, posters and banners were used to communicate these messages.

The outcome of such prompt action: no disease outbreaks were reported.