Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Flooding and Landslides Emergency Appeal No. 13/03 Final report

Situation Report
Originally published


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In Brief

Appeal No. 13/03; Interim Final Report; Period covered: 30 August to December, 2003; Final appeal coverage: 100.4%. ().

Appeal history:

Launched on 20 May 2003 for CHF 1,212,000 (USD 936,655or EUR 780,993) for 3 months to assist 125,000 beneficiaries.

Budget increased to CHF 2,632,584 to assist 700,000 beneficiaries. The operation was increased by 3 months to 6 months. (See Operations Update 3)

Disaster Relief Emergency Funds (DREF) allocated: CHF 50,000.

Related Emergency or Annual Appeals: 01.57/2003, 01.60/2004

Background and Summary

The Appeal 13/03 was launched on 20 May 2003 in response to severe flooding and landslides as a result of heavy monsoon rains in mid-May. Numerous villages were partially or totally submerged with Government estimates of 146,000 families affected while 250 people were killed. Approximately 10,000 houses were destroyed with another 30,000 damaged. Crop damage was low but thousands of wells and latrines were flooded, exposing the population to water and sanitation risks.

Immediately following the floods the Sri Lanka Red Cross efficiently mobilized its community trained volunteers who were well experienced in assessment and relief following their involvement in the drought operation carried out by the Hambantota branch in 2001 and 2002. They distributed food packets, non-food relief items and water to the most vulnerable families in the five affected districts of Ratnapura, Matara, Galle, Kalutara and Hambantota.

There was a prompt response to the emergency with the Regional Disaster Response Delegate and Regional Disaster Preparedness Manager deployed immediately to Sri Lanka. Aiding this process was the fact that the Region's second Regional Disaster Response Team (RDRT) training had concluded in Sri Lanka just before the floods. As a result, three officers deployed by the National Society for assessment were fully RDRT trained. A joint taskforce consisting of 3 FACT members, 1 RDRT member and key National Society staff members was create d to coordinate and support the Red Cross assistance to the most vulnerable .

The original Appeal had a large food relief component as this was the major need identified by initial assessments. However later assessments revealed this need had been largely met by the Government and other organisations while there were substantial donations of food to the Sri Lanka Red Cross.

In the revised appeal (see Operations Update 3) the water and sanitation component was scaled up to address the most acute need of risk of death and disease from contaminated wells etc.

The emergency also exposed weaknesses and limitations in disaster preparedness in Sri Lanka, including within the National Society. Recognizing Sri Lanka's vulnerability to such disasters, the revised appeal aimed to strengthen the Sri Lanka Red Cross's capacity to respond both to the current situation and to emergencies in the future. The National Society seized on the opportunity from emerging lessons learned to reshape its long term operations, including the roles it could play in disaster management.

The goals of restoring safe water supply and proper sanitation; providing non-food relief items to the most vulnerable immediately following the disaster; providing temporary shelter to 390 families; increasing awareness about water and vector-borne diseases have all been met. The remaining goal of improving disaster preparedness and capacity to respond of the Sri Lanka Red Cross has commenced and is an ongoing process. Details of the activities relating to these goals are outlined in the relevant sections below.

The procurement of vehicles as a capacity building measure to assist the Sri Lanka Red Cross in responding more effectively to emergencies is taking place within the budget, five vehicles instead of the three are being purchased. See under 'Disaster Preparedness and Response Capacity' section.

The National Society is undertaking the renovation of a water tank in the Hambantota district at the request of the Sri Lanka government. This activity is possible within the water and sanitation budget. See below for further details.

Among lessons learned and conclusions drawn from the emergency operation were: the National Society's need for scaling up in its disaster management capacity; the value in continued and detailed assessment. What began primarily as a disaster response programme changed to a capacity building/disaster preparedness one based on changing needs. A clearer picture also emerged of the need for long-term activities to decrease vulnerability to disaster in the future.

The Federation was greatly assisted by the German Red Cross agreeing to second their bilateral representative in Delhi, as Acting Federation Head of Delegation for 6 weeks. This allowed the Federation Representative in Sri Lanka to accompany Sri Lanka Red Cross senior management to attend the large international donor forum about Sri Lanka organized by the Japanese Government in June 2003.

A comprehensive Evaluation Review of the operation was made in November 2003 by an independent review team. The full Review Report was distributed to all partners at the Sri Lanka Coordination meeting in Kathmandu, 27 March 2004 and can further be obtained upon request from the Federation Secretariat in Geneva. As a result of the Review recommendations regarding improvements in financial management, a comprehensive Cooperation Agreement has been developed and signed by the Federation and the Sri Lanka Red Cross.


The Sri Lanka Red Cross and the Federation Relief Delegates coordinated and exchanged information with other actors through the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) - a grouping of the NGOs in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government also established a system of sectoral meetings, in which the Red Cross is took part alongside the UN agencies and other actors. These meetings helped in the process of allocating areas of responsibility between the various actors in order to avoid duplication and to ensure identification of the most vulnerable.

The International Federation worked in close collaboration with the Spanish Red Cross Society on many operational issues. The Sri Lanka Red Cross and International Federation also coordinated with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Ports Development and Shipping, local authorities e.g. Assistant Government Agent , District Secretary and Gram Sevaka Niladari (Village Service Officer).

The Federation supported the Sri Lanka Red Cross in building a strategic relationship with the media, government ministries, diplomatic and aid missions, and other external humanitarian organizations and actors. The National Society Fundraising and Communications Division has established an excellent rapport with international media agencies. Its mailing list contains over 500 institutions, donors, media, foreign missions, international NGOs, etc. It established a library of pictures, reports, videos etc about the emergency and the response, for use at appropriate fora. The regional information officer and regional reporting delegate in Delhi provided support.

Analysis of the operation - objectives, achievements, impact

Water and Sanitation

Objective 1: To restore safe water supply and proper sanitation, in order to improve living conditions for the affected population and strengthen the communities' preparedness for future disasters.

Activity 1: Pump, de-sludge and chlorinate a total of 5,600 flooded wells, as identified in coordination with local authorities and other actors, using 23 teams of Red Cross volunteers working alongside hired professionals.

Expected Result 1: 30,000 families (150,000 people) have regained access to safe wells

All 5,600 wells were cleaned and Red Cross volunteers worked together with teams of hired professionals as a capacity building component. The volunteers were trained in dissemination of the health awareness message on personal hygiene and safe water. These messages were passed on to the well owners in order to prevent outbreaks of disease. The Government advised the Sri Lanka Red Cross that chlorination of wells is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to be done under the supervision of the Public Health Inspector (PHI) by field health staff. The wells cleaned by the Red Cross have been certified by the PHI as cleaned and chlorinated. The district/divisional details of cleaned wells are as follows:

Div. Secretariat

Ratnapura Ratnapura
Hambantota Weeraketiya
Kalutara Bulathsinhala
Total wells cleaned

Activity 2: Distribute 140,000 sachets of the water purification chemical Chlor-Floc together with 10,000 buckets, enabling 10,000 families to have 20 litres of safe water each day for two weeks.

Expected Result 2: 10,000 families are able to purify 20 litres of safe water each day for two weeks, to tide them over until their wells are safe.

Because the overall response from the national and international community was extensive, the emergency needs were met very quickly. The situation where large numbers of people were living under dangerous water supply and sanitation circumstances was soon over. This meant the situation changed from an emergency, to a post-emergency/rehabilitatio n and disaster preparedness phase. This distribution of water purifying kits and water filtration kits (see next sub-section) proceeded on the basis of disaster preparedness. Volunteers were trained in dissemination about the use of the sachets and each family was provided with a user manual in the local language.

The distribution was made to the beneficiary families as follows:

Ratnapura - 2500

Kalutara - 2500

Galle - 1500

Matara - 2500

Hambantota - 1000

Total - 10,000

A more detailed breakdown of the distribution is available in Operations Update 4.

Activity 3: Distribute 4,000 drinking water filtration kits to 4,000 families in the Deniyaya Division of the Matara District and other areas where the population is sourcing drinking water from rivers. The kits can provide the families with filtered water for 6-12 months.

Expected result 3: 4,000 families in areas where the population is drinking from river waters, have water filter kits which can provide them with filtered water for 6-12 months.

Since the initial emergency situation where large numbers of people were living under dangerous water supply and sanitation circumstances was only brief, it was decided that the kits would be distributed equally in the districts of Matara and Ratnapura as a disaster preparedness measure. The volunteers were trained in dissemination about the use of the kits and each family was provided with a user manual in the local language. For a detailed breakdown of distribution by divisional secretariat in each district, see Operations Update 4.

Activity 4: Supply a total of 400 latrine slabs, inform local authorities of their availability and agree on where they would best be deployed.

Expected result 4: Local authorities will be informed of the availability of 400 latrine slabs, and agreement on their deployment has been reached.

In consultation with the local authorities, the Sri Lanka Red Cross issued 400 latrine slabs provided by the ICRC as per the following details (see Operations Update 4 for a divisional Secretariat breakdown):

Ratnapura - 150

Matara - 150

Galle - 100

Total - 400

Activity 5: De-sludge flooded latrines, clean and disinfect sites used as camps in Matara district, as identified in cooperation with local authorities and other actors, and community mobilization of support for the cleaning and disinfecting.

Expected Result 5: Sites used as camps in Matara district are cleaned and disinfected, and their latrines are de-sludged, and the community participated in the work.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross was advised by the Government that the provision for proper disposal of human excreta is the responsibility of the local authority and cleaning of public latrines is done by the local authorities. However, Red Cross volunteers were involved with this activity. The respective communities also took part during the cleaning of latrines

Activity 6: Procure and install a total of five 5,000 litre water tanks and repair the damaged pipelines in five sites used as large camps in the Matara District, and procure and distribute a maximum of 1,000 water buckets to the population still staying in the above-mentioned camps at time of installation of the tanks.

Expected Result 6: The population still living in large camps in Matara district has access to water, and the sites' water capacity for future displacement situations is improved.

The water tanks were installed at the five identified sites. As it was found technically difficult to install 5,000 litre tanks, it was decided to procure 2,000 litre tanks and each site has been provided with 2 tanks. The 1,000 buckets were distributed.

While it is the responsibility of the Government to compensate losses of affected communities, it has made a special request to the Sri Lanka Red Cross to assist with the renovation of a water tank in the Hambantota district. This request was made due to a lack of local body funds in Hambantota. The National Society agreed to the request and can carry out the activity within the existing water and sanitation budget.

Non-food relief items

Objective 2: To support 7,500 families (37,500 people) with the minimum livelihood requirements to the most vulnerable of those whose houses have been completely or partially destroyed, and who have lost their belongings.

Activity: Procure and distribute family kits to 7,500 identified most vulnerable families in all five districts.

Expected Result: 7,500 vulnerable families have minimum livelihood requirements.

The revised appeal was made to support 7,500 families. However the Sri Lanka Red Cross was supporting 11,000 with specific items procured with bi-lateral funding received from AusAID, USAID and the Chinese Red Cross. In addition, 9,960 blankets were received from the Thailand Red Cross as a bilateral donation to be included in the family kit. To avoid the problem of the family kits not being uniform for the larger number of beneficiaries, the remaining items were procured out of funds raised by the International Federation. The Family Kit was supplied in a systematic and uniform manner in order to ensure that no discrimination occurred.

The beneficiary families were selected on the criteria of complete/almost complete destruction of house, loss of belongings, high numbers of children, female -headed households, unsupported elderly and those who had limited access to other relief programmes. The distribution of the kits by district was as follows;

Family kits

For a detailed breakdown of the contents of the family kits, see Operations Update 4.

Each family kit contained a Red Cross brochure in the local language outlining the Movement's Fundamental Principles and a leaflet about the prevention of water and vector borne diseases.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross is also supporting school children by providing school bags, books, and other material using assistance received from further bi-lateral donors - Plan Sri Lanka and Rissho (Japanese NGO).


Objective 3: Provide temporary shelter to 390 families whose houses have been completely destroyed and have no extended family to live with.

Activity: Procure and distribute 390 tents.

Expected results: 390 vulnerable families have temporary shelter.

The need for emergency shelter for those with no home or extended family to stay with was not as great as first assessed. As a result a decreased distribution of 240 tents was made. These tents were donated by the Iranian Red Crescent Society.

The distribution per district was as follows:



Objective 4: To increase awareness about water and vector borne diseases in the affected population.

Activity: Print and distribute posters and leaflets with health awareness messages on personal hygiene and safe water in local language to all families assisted under this operation, and training of volunteers in dissemination of these messages.

Expected result: There is no increase in outbreaks of water and vector borne diseases in the areas of operation.

Volunteers were trained by the Federation Delegates and Sri Lanka Red Cross staff in the dissemination of healt h awareness messages on personal hygiene and safe water. This information was also conveyed to the well owners. Health message leaflets in local languages with information on personal hygiene and safe water were also distributed in the family kits as outlined above.

There were no serious health issues. Mobile clinics were organized and no communicable disease outbreaks were reported. Sporadic cases of dysentery, leptospirosis, dengue and viral flu were reported in some areas.

Disaster preparedness and response capacity

Objective 5: Improve the disaster preparedness and capacity to respond speedily and effectively in Sri Lanka Red Cross' headquarters and branches in floods and landslides prone areas.

Activity 1:

Strengthen and expand the number of Disaster Preparedness/Disaster Response trainers and trained volunteers to a total of 60, by organizing one workshop for trainers and one for volunteers. The training will also include assessment methodology and nutrition support.

Expected result 1: A total of 60 new trainers and volunteers are trained in DP/DR, including assessment methodology and nutrition support.

The workshops were conducted in December 2003 after the completion of the relief distribution. They were held with the assistance of the Federation Disaster Preparedness Manager and were ta rgeted at National Headquarters, branch and volunteer level.

Activity 2: Assist the National Society in its ongoing work to develop a new DP/DR plan.

Expected result 2: A new DP/DR plan is in place.

The RDRT-trained director of the Organisational Development department attended a regional delegation workshop in Bangladesh in April 2004 on Disaster Management training material development.

The operation exposed weaknesses and limitations in disaster preparedness in the National Society. The Sri Lanka Red Cross viewed this operation as an opportunity to also reshape its long term operations, including the role it could play in the country's disaster preparedness and response. In order to achieve this long term capacity building, the International Federation and the National Society have been working closely to carry out the operation in a manner governed by the Principles of the Movement, the Principles and Rules of Disaster Response and the Code of Conduct, respecting SPHERE Guidelines and the National Society's rules and regulations.

Activity 3: Strengthen the branches with urgently needed DP/DR equipment and stocks.

Expected result 3: Needed DP/DR equipment and stocks are in place.

The branches have been equipped with mobile phones and fax machines in order to establish quicker and more efficient communication.

The lack of vehicles in operating Red Cross Branches severely impeded effectiveness during the emergency phase. Vehicles had to be hired from the beginning of the operation in all Branches except Ratnapura where the ICRC provided a Land Cruiser until the third week of June. The dependence on hiring vehicles right through to the completion of the project proved to be very costly. To boost the capacity of the National Society in disaster management, five reconditioned Tata pickup vehicles are being purchased for branches in all five flood-affected areas. Originally it was planned to purchase three new vehicles. The procurement is still within the original motor vehicle budget. The procurement process experienced delays but is now proceeding. Also within the motor vehicle budget and plan, a vehicle has been procured for the Federation delegation to assist it in supporting the National Society in disaster management and other programmes.

Transport Management System Software was installed and staff trained in its use. The field coordinators for all 5 districts were trained to develop their plan of action based on the Appeal in order to make them familiar with how to draw up a Plan of Action and Budget. In all the warehouses (NHQ and 5 Branches) Stock Cards and Bin Cards have been introduced and used to maintain proper inventory records. In addition, Beneficiary Cards have been printed and issued to district branches for the registration of beneficiaries.

Computer networks have been installed at the National Headquarters. This computerization process will assist efficiency and productivity. Finance software to computerize the accounting system has been installed, and will assist with the production of accurate and timelier reporting for donors. The working advance and cash flow system between the National Headquarters and branches, in disaster situations, is being reviewed and adjustments will be made for increased efficiency.


The Red Cross interventions had a strong and immediate impact on the affected people and helped in preventing deaths and outbreaks of disease.

The family kits supported the most vulnerable beneficiary families with minimum livelihood requirements to serve their immediate as well as long-term needs. In addit ion, the response capacity of these families has also been strengthened.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross learned that it has weaknesses and limitations in disaster preparedness, with these being exposed during the floods. This operation has given the National Society an opportunity to overcome these problems and improve their systems and procedures working with the International Federation's delegates.

Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement -- Principles and initiatives

The relief operation reached the most vulnerable people in the affected areas. Information on the Movement's Fundamental Principles were included in the family kits distributed.

National Society Capacity Building

Refer to Objective 5 for details of the scaling up of the National Society's disaster management capacity. Other capacity building progress made was as follows;

- A previous staff on loan arrangement from Nepal Red Cross with a view to supporting capacity building of the Hambantota branch to monitor programme implementation and effective volunteer mobilisation as part of the Disaster Preparedness Programme, enabled volu nteers from Hambantota to train volunteers also in the Matara District.

- During the cleaning of 5,600 wells, Red Cross volunteers worked together with the team of hired professionals as a capacity building component. The volunteers were also trained in dissemination about the health awareness message on personal hygiene and safe water which was distributed to the well owners.

- During the tendering process for procuring relief items for the family kits, Sri Lanka Red Cross staff worked alongside the International Federation's delegates, gaining valuable experience.

- The Transport Management System Software has been installed. Staff have been trained and it is now being successfully utilised.

- The field coordinators for all 5 districts were trained to develop their plan of action based on the Appeal in order to make them familiar about how to draw up a Plan of Action and Budget.

- These field coordinators were also trained in selection of beneficiaries, distribution of relief goods etc.

- In all National Headquarters and five branch warehouses, Stock Cards and Bin Cards have been introduced and used to maintain proper inventory records. Beneficiary Cards have been printed and issued to the district branches for registration of beneficiaries.

- The branches have been equipped with mobile phones and fax machines in order to establish quicker and more efficient communication means to build effective response capacity.

- Two staff members from the Sri Lanka Red Cross have been worked full-time along with Federation Relief Delegates from the start of the project, giving them valuable experience.

Lessons learned

The major lesson learned was the lack of disaster response and preparedness capacity of the Sri Lanka Red Cross and of the public in general. The population is vulnerable to natural disaster and the fact that these floods were the worst in 50 years in the country revealed that disaster preparedness was at low levels. As outlined above, the National Society is taking steps to improve its disaster management capacity, which will in turn boost the disaster preparedness of the public.

Difficulties were initially experienced in applying the required procedures in procuring items for the family kits. This delayed the process for a while. However these issues were overcome and the cooperation between the International Federation and Sri Lanka Red Cross has become more effective and efficient.


The Sri Lanka Red Cross discussed with partner National Societies at the Sri Lanka country coordination meeting in Nepal, 27 March 2004, about reallocating the remaining unspent balance of CHF 118,000 to support uncovered portions of the Organisational Development section of the Sri Lanka Annual Appeal 01.61/2004 in light of the National Society's current activities to continue implementing changes needed as per the Constitutional implementation process.

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

In Sri Lanka: National Society (Chandra Ranawickrama, Director-General, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, Colombo), email: , phone: +94 11 269 1095, fax: +94 11 269 5434

In Sri Lanka: Delegation contact (Alasdair Gordon-Gibson, Federation Representative, Sri Lanka Delegation, Colombo), email: , phone +94 11 471 5977, fax +94 11 471 5978.

In Geneva: Asia Pacific Department, Ewa Eriksson, Regional Officer, email: , phone: +41 22 730 4252, fax: +41 22 733 0395.

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for a full description of the national society profile, please access the Federation's website at

For longer-term programmes, please refer to the Federation's Annual Appeal.

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