Sri Lanka

Permanent housing for more Sri Lankan tsunami survivors five years on

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As the fifth anniversary of the Asian tsunami approaches, a group of 25 tsunami-affected families from a small community north of the Sri Lanka capital, Colombo, will be moving into permanent new homes built through a government-IOM initiative.

More than 35,000 people in Sri Lanka alone were killed and more than half a million displaced when an earthquake off the Indonesian coast on December 26, 2004, triggered a series of devastating tsunami along coastlines in the Indian Ocean.

The homes, built with funding from the Dutch government, are part of a larger IOM tsunami recovery programme that has built about 8570 emergency and transitional shelters and 570 permanent homes for tsunami-affected communities along the southern and eastern coast of the island nation. About 43,000 people have benefitted.

"Permanent housing has been one of the greatest recovery needs for most of the tsunami survivors and communities. Without a permanent home, it is difficult for people to rebuild their lives and livelihoods," says Takuya Ono, Head of IOM Sri Lanka's Engineering Services.

The aim of the programme is to provide safe housing with improved living conditions to the last of tsunami-affected displaced families who chose to relocate to another area.

The design and construction of the permanent houses on relocation sites have been carried out in consultation with the tsunami-affected communities. The government has provided cash grants to purchase land and to start construction of the homes. In addition to building the homes with decent sanitation, electricity and access to water, IOM improves the land on which they are built through proper drainage and the construction of internal roads.

The Organization also facilitates community discussions between those receiving the homes and other families in the host community to guarantee a smooth and sustainable relocation process.

"Soon after the tsunami struck, we found refuge in a nearby church after which we moved to a tsunami camp and then to transitional shelters. After five years we are finally moving to permanent houses which are 100,000 times better than the camp where we stayed before and this has helped us get our lives back to normality," says Elsy, tsunami survivor and community leader who has advocated strongly for permanent housing.

For more information contact: Passanna Gunasekera at pgunasekera@iom.int or Stacey Winston at swinston@iom.int

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