Sri Lanka

A new home brings new hope in northern Sri Lanka

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By Mahieash Johnny in Colombo, Sri Lanka

It has been a long wait, but finally Mr. and Mrs Jawath’s home is complete. The Jawaths live in the village of Rasool Puthveli in Mannar District in northern Sri Lanka. In 1990, when the long-running conflict in Sri Lanka came to their doorstep, they were forced to flee. For over 20 years they lived in different parts of the North, moving with the ebb and flow of the war, constantly seeking shelter and protection. In 2008, it was safe to return to Rasool Puthveli, and Mr. Jawath built a small hut on the land belonging to his father.

Supporting his wife and four children has been a struggle, but in 2012 he became eligible to receive support from a housing programme run by The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and supported by the Indian Government.

“Building a house of our own is indeed a dream come true for people like us,” says Mr. Jawath. “This would have never been possible if we had to do it alone.”

The simple three-room brick structure is the first of 16,800 houses to be completed under the Indian Housing Project. The project is complementary to the wider Red Cross Post-Conflict Recovery Programme which has been helping reconstruction and recovery efforts in northern Sri Lanka since 2010. The programme, which is implemented by The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and other Red Cross Red Crescent partners, has provided cash grants that have helped more than 1,800 returnee families to build new homes and establish livelihoods. It primarily supports people who had been displaced due to the conflict and have now returned to settle in their place or origin.

“The support from the Government of India has given us the resources to continue an owner-driven model of house construction and to reach more families that are in a desperate situation,” says Bob McKerrow, the IFRC’s head of delegation in Sri Lanka.

The Red Cross Post-Conflict Recovery Programme aimed to support the construction of 3,000 homes. The funding from the Indian Government has enabled the organization to expand its support to an additional 16,800 households across all five districts of the northern province of Sri Lanka.

In a recent interview (above), Sandra D’Urzo, senior officer of the IFRC’s shelter and settlements department explained how the Post-Conflict Recovery Programme had built on the learning gained from the Red Cross Red Crescent owner-driven housing programme that was established after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

“This programme brings the community together,” she said. “They take ownership and we provide technical support. The approach is unique because it has a very strong developmental aspect. It’s not just about the hardware of construction, its about Red Cross volunteers on the ground giving people confidence, providing psychosocial support and helping people to settle back into a community that is less fragile.”