Sri Lanka

UNDAC Disaster Response Preparedness Assessment Mission to Sri Lanka, 12-25 November 2011

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Background of the Mission

At the Global Meeting of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), September 2010, the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka expressed interest in enhancing national search and rescue capacity. At the beginning of 2011, Sri Lanka suffered the heaviest rains in almost 100 years, increasing awareness of the importance of preparedness, early warning and national response capacity and reiterating lessons learnt from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

In July 2011, representatives from the OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific visited Sri Lanka, accompanied by an expert in search and rescue, in preparation for the UNDAC disaster response preparedness mission. The terms of reference (ToRs) for the mission were developed, in consultation with the Government, the donors and the humanitarian community met by the group during their visit.

In August 2011, the Government of Sri Lanka conveyed its agreement to the proposed TORs and formally requested the Emergency Relief Coordinator and United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. Valerie Amos for deployment of an UNDAC mission through the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) for Sri Lanka, Mr. Subinay Nandy. The UNDAC mission was deployed to Sri Lanka from 12 to 25 November.

Overview of the TORs

In accordance with the request of the Government of Sri Lanka, and recognizing the achievements that Sri Lanka has made in terms of improving disaster management policy, institutional arrangements and legislation in the country, the terms of reference for the UNDAC disaster response preparedness mission were primarily to review the capacities of national disaster management system and to make recommendations to the Government on priority areas for adjustment or additional attention. The recommendations should address strengthening disaster preparedness and response coordination at national, provincial, district and lower levels.

The mission would also serve as an opportunity to identify how the international disaster response system could support national mechanisms.

The terms of reference agreed upon under the leadership of the Ministry of Disaster Management and RC/HC Mr. Nandy, and covers four broad areas: early warning and preparedness; response and coordination; emergency services; and legal and institutional framework.

Outline of Sections and Sub-sections

Part one of this report provides an analytical overview of the hazard and risks faced in the country and a description of the legal, institutional and policy framework currently in place. Part one provides a foundation for understanding the findings of the missions outlined in Part two.

Part two follows the disaster management cycle. Section 6.0 on Disaster Preparedness looks at monitoring systems and information management, and how these functions form part of national exercises and trainings. This section examines the potential for strengthening partnerships in disaster risk reduction, particularly through public and private partnerships. The section also looks at how disaster management in Sri Lanka can support the broader agenda of community resilience and focuses importantly on the needs of vulnerable groups such as women, children and those living with disability. Section 6 also poses the question of how inter-ministerial coordination and existing policy frameworks lend themselves to disaster preparedness and response in Sri Lanka and makes recommendations to adjust the development process of new policy plans.

Section 7.0 examines the present arrangements for strategic and operational coordination in disaster response at both the national and subnational levels. The section addresses information sharing in times of disaster, including communication infrastructure. It also looks at how needs are assessed, and the management of logistical challenges in providing assistance.

Section 7.0 also reviews the use of emergency services, including fire, ambulance and police and health services as a national asset in times of disaster. It reviews dispatch services, the command and control structures, and the role of the armed forces. It also reviews training and capacity building facilities. Importantly it also looks closely at the type of search and rescue capacity required in Sri Lanka. Lastly, this section, examines the important role of the national Red Cross society and that of the broader national and international community when the requirements of response exceed the capacity of national authorities.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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