Sri Lanka

UNICEF Situation Report Sri Lanka 31 May 2005

UNICEF highlights

  • UN Special Envoy, Bill Clinton visits Sri Lanka and discusses reconstruction issues with local communities from the worst affected district.

  • UNICEF and WFP sign Memorandum of Understanding for establishing a package of essential services for children in vulnerable districts in Sri Lanka

  • A Child Friendly Environment Drive is underway in Ampara Education Zones: 209 classrooms are becoming Child Friendly learning spaces

  • Water storage and purification supplies handed over to National Water Board 450 water bladders (1,500L each) and 940 drums (50 kg each) of calcium hypochlorite

  • Preparations ongoing by the UN for a Tsunami Lessons Learned Workshop


UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Reconstruction, Former President Bill Clinton visited Sri Lanka on 28 May. He met with Her Excellency the President of Sri Lanka, the UN Country Team and Civil Society members in Colombo and interacted with local communities in Ampara during which he discussed progress in reconstruction efforts.

MOU between UNICEF and WFP

The Representatives for UNICEF and WFP in Sri Lanka signed an MOU on 31st May, outlining a framework for achieving convergence and synergy of programme activities and outputs, through joint programming, to effectively reach the most vulnerable communities and individuals where food insecurity, and malnutrition are recognized as hampering the development process. The key areas identified for collaboration are advocacy and policy dialogue, nutritional surveillance and needs assessment, healthier learning environment, and, maternal and child nutrition. Schools and health centres will be the sites for convergence of the programme elements. UNICEF and WFP will develop joint workplans detailing the specifics of the collaboration.


The number of tsunami-affected IDPs has remained relatively constant over the last few weeks. As of 25th May, the number of IDPs reportedly living in camps and hosted with friends and relatives stood at 499,783. The largest numbers of IDPs are recorded in Galle (120,828) and Ampara (100,012). The construction of transitional shelters is on-going in tsunami-affected districts. In Jaffna district, the planned shelter construction is nearing completion. According to the Government Agent situation report, 2957 out of 3151 transitional shelters have been completed and families have moved in. Lessons Learned Tsunami Workshop Planning and preparations are ongoing for a Lessons Learned Tsunami Workshop, to be held on 8 and 9 June with participants from national and local government, NGOs, bilateral donors and International Organisations. The Sri Lankan exercise is a precursor to a regional exercise taking place in Medan, Indonesia on 13-14 June. UN agencies are supporting UN OCHA in organizing the Workshop.

Safety measures in displaced camps

On 14 May, a displaced 15 year old boy was badly burnt in a Thirrukovial IDP camp in Ampara. He had wrapped himself in a mosquito net and accidentally knocked a candle onto the net.

As the net was highly flammable, he received severe burns to 90% of his body. UNICEF Protection Officers and DCPC visited the boy in Ampara hospital on 16th May. The boy died on 17th May. This tragic incident and potential fire hazards in the displaced camps and transitional shelters were discussed in several coordination meetings and with government partners to ensure that immediate advocacy and actions for safe behaviour, accident and fire prevention in the camps is undertaken. The UNICEF Early Childhood programme in Colombo is leading the formulation of key messages in accident prevention to increase awareness and safe behaviour in camps. Also, supplies like mosquito nets and lanterns will be delivered with fire hazard warnings.

UNICEF Response

Water and Sanitation

The bi-weekly water and sanitation coordination meeting in Colombo emphasized the need for a six months review and acceleration of hygiene promotion activities. 450 water bladders (1,500L each) and 940 drums (50 kg each) of calcium hypochlorite were handed over to the National Water Supply and Drainage board in Colombo. The Water board will distribute the items to the field.

Prototype gully suckers assembled by two companies were tested on performance. After final improvements, 7 additional gully suckers funded by UNICEF will be delivered to the North and East of Sri Lanka. This will allow several companies to compete in the market and to keep high standards of the products.

Some key water and sanitation results from the field for this reporting period are as follows:

Jaffna district: a training workshop on hygiene promotion was held on 25 May for the Public Health Inspectors and health volunteers. UNICEF contributed to the training with supplying 2,400 adult hygiene kits through Health officials in Point Pedro area and at Vadamarachchi East. The water and sanitation facilities for tsunami shelters are almost completed: 36 latrines out of 37 planned and 07 out 09 wells have been completed. Batticaloa district: construction of 32 more toilets were completed in Puthukudiyiruppu, Veloor, Siharam and Karbala camps. This brings the total number of toilets constructed in the district to 194. An orientation programme for 30 Public Health Inspectors (PHI) on Hygiene Promotion activities at IDP camps was carried out on 20 -- 21 May 2005. The orientation ‘action learning’ was facilitated by ACF, Merlin and UNICEF. The 30 PHIs were taken to visit camps to review the hygiene situation and develop a course of action. Water testing kits were also distributed to the PHIs at the training and were put to use in the camp exercise.

Ampara district: 135 schools in Ampara district were identified to benefit from construction of Child Friendly toilets, safe water supply and hygiene education to be supported by UNICEF, GOAL, World Vision and OXFAM. Well cleaning work is also in progress. To date, 5,812 wells along the coastal areas have been cleaned and disinfected by 10 organizations in Ampara district. UNICEF supported pipes and fittings for 3,000 service connections in Kalmunai and Sammanthurai were delivered to the Water Board. Of this, 2,500 connections are already completed benefiting more than 12,000 people.

Southern district: UNICEF funded gully emptier is handed over to Mahamodara hospital, Galle. UNICEF is providing water and sanitation facilities in the new transitional camp in Matara.

Health and Nutrition

An internal UNICEF meeting for ECD focal points from the field was held with a focus on the emergency response in Health and Nutrition. Best practices and innovations in the ECD programme currently implemented in Nuwara Eliya district were also shared with field colleagues. In addition, the emergency practices for water and sanitation were discussed. UNICEF's response to the tsunami was reviewed in comparison with international standards, and the current challenges and possible solutions were discussed.

Nutrition Surveillance

The Medical Research Institute commenced the first follow-up survey of the nutrition surveillance system on 9th May, established by the Ministry of Health with the support of WFP and UNICEF. The information gathering at field level is completed in six districts in the North and East and work is progressing in all remaining six districts in the Southern and Western Provinces. Information collection will be completed at the end of May and results will be disseminated mid June at a national level forum, consisting of all stake holders who will take necessary actions based on the analysis.

Results of the Vitamin A supplementation campaign

The Family Health Bureau has made their first tentative evaluation on the Vitamin “A” mega dose campaign launched on 30th April 2005. This vitamin “A” mega dose campaign was launched as a remedial intervention after the rapid assessment on nutritional status of Tsunami affected populations made in mid January 2005. The preliminary data shows that the coverage of vitamin “A” supplementation was over 90 %.

Prevention of vector-borne disease

5,000 mosquito nets were handed over to the Deputy Director of Health Services in Ampara to support the Anti Malaria Campaign and 5,400 mosquito nets were provided to the DPDHS in Jaffna district. An increase in Mosquito-borne diseases is likely due to the seasonal North East monsoon rains.

Safety measures in displaced camps

The issue of establishing safety measures at the IDP camps was discussed at the Health Taskforce meeting held at the DPDHS Office in Batticaloa. It has been decided to provide first aid kits to camps and training for Volunteers on first aid.


Access to schooling and progress of reconstruction efforts

Work has commenced on the construction of 195 semi-permanent classrooms in Kalmunai and Akkaraipattu zone. In addition, 99 class rooms will also be constructed in all 6 education zones of Ampara under the UNICEF regular programme. In Galle education zone, the construction work of 2 semi permanent school buildings funded by UNICEF is nearing completion.

Unavailability of Land: For 9 schools in Kalmunai zone land has not been identified yet to relocate these schools. Although some private lands have been identified, the school community could not afford to purchase them. The Ministry of Education has asked the Survey department for surveying the identified lands for acquisition. Of the 17 affected schools, state lands are identified for 3 schools and 5 of them will be constructed in the same places which are beyond the buffer zone. It is to note that well-wishers of Shams School collected and purchased a land at Medduwaddai village, Maruthamanai for their school at a cost of Rs 2,500,000.00 (approx. USD 25,000).

UNICEF supports transportation for displaced children in Ampara: The New Easter Bus Company will run a bus service from June 1 onwards, transporting school children in IDP camps at Mandanai and Sakalakalai Amman Temple. UNICEF is supporting this bus service through Zonal Education Office Akkaraiapttu. Approximately 200-300 children will benefit at this initial stage.

Child Friendly Learning and Recreation:

A Child Friendly Environment Drive is now underway in Kalmunai and Akkaraipattu Education Zones to make the temporary classrooms more child friendly by making enclosures, partitioning and decorating the partition walls. This new look creates a conducive environment for better learning of IDP children and children affected by Tsunami. So far 59 class rooms in Kalmunai zone and about 150 class rooms in Akkaraipattu zone totalling to 209 class rooms are becoming Child Friendly learning spaces in Amparai district.

Distribution of school supplies is still ongoing in the Batticaloa education zone due to competing distribution demands on the one clerk in the education zone office. UNICEF has offered labourers and additional transportation; however, this particular clerk must be present to record all supplies. It is anticipated that all remaining furniture supplies will be distributed by the end of next week.

Distribution of clothes in Kilinochchi: A 13 year old child in Kilinochchi, who is a student of Kallapadu School, reflected that there was a problem in that children had only one set of clothing apart from their school uniforms. Following discussions with the Principals of displaced schools, UNICEF distributed clothing for 149 boys and 114 girls in Mullaitivu RCTMS school, 116 boys and 100 girls in Kallapadu school, these being the schools that were totally destroyed by tsunami. Arrangements have been made to distribute clothing to Kallaru School for 100 girls and 100 boys.

Children participated in the design of homework centres: a meeting with the camp volunteers has been arranged for 1 June to debrief on the discussions that have been held with the children in the camps on their participation in the design of the homework centres in Batticaloa. The designs for the centres will be developed along with a work plan for all camps and quotations will be obtained next week.

Protection and Psycho-Social Support

Support to Police Desks

UNICEF Ampara met with the police to discuss UNICEF continuing support to the Children’s and Women’s Police Desks in accessing the camps and communities to do preventative and follow up Tsunami protection related activities and general child protection in the community. UNICEF is providing two rented vehicles for monitoring the situation in IDP camps.

Latest UAM statistics

Of the unaccompanied children, all 18 have had follow-up assessments completed. Of the separated children, 1,376 have had follow-up assessments completed and 333 have benefited from Fit Persons court orders. Of the children who have lost one parent, 3,838 have received follow-up visits and 386 have benefited from Fit Persons court orders. Some 2,835 family kits have been distributed to these children.

The latest figures on unaccompanied and separated children and children who lost one parent are as follows:

Unaccompanied and Separated children in Sri Lanka as of 26th May 2005
Number of unaccompanied children
Number of separated children
Number of children lost one parent

Psycho-Social Support to children and families

In Trincomalee, a meeting was held with psychosocial partners to discuss the effects of the frequent hartals on the relief distributions and the subsequent effects on the psychosocial well being of Tsunami affected people in the district. The Core Group issued a press statement appealing to NGOs and governmental agencies to continue their support and care for affected people in the camps as any cessation of relief activities will greatly undermine people’s resilience in coping and healing from the Tsunami.

In the District Psycho-social committee meeting in Jaffna, held on 18 May, it was agreed to establish a district coordination body under DPDHS to handle all psycho-social issues in the district. Monitoring of psycho social activities Several field visits were done in Trincomalee to monitor psychosocial activities in Jeya Nagar, Irranakany and Valaiyuthu camps. Meetings were held with volunteers and community representatives to discuss psychosocial activities in the camps. Except for Jeya Nagar camp people, especially children and women seem to be involved and benefiting from the activities. Developments in District Child Protection A meeting was held in Galle with magistrates to ensure proper procedures are followed when processing fit person court orders.

Meetings were held in Trincomalee with UNICEF and two Divisional Secretaries to discuss the formation and functioning of divisional child protection committees.

Missions & Communications

18-19 May: Ms. Rohini de Silva, Deputy Director, Department of Human Resources from UNICEF NYHQ visited the Colombo and Galle offices and accompanied our Galle staff to visit UNICEF projects in the southern tsunami-affected areas of Sri Lanka.

23-25 May: The UK Natcom, along with the News Editor of the ‘The Caterer and Hotel Keeper’ magazine and a journalist from the Eastern Daily Press visited UNICEF assisted projects in Galle and Hambantota. The group's visit was part of the UNICEF initiative where over 200 restaurants in

London contributed their evening’s collections towards UNICEF tsunami efforts raising over GBP 200,000.

27 May to 2 June - Mr. Prom Chopra, Deputy Director, DFAM, NYHQ and Mr. Olivier Degreef, Senior Programme Officer, EMOPS, UNICEF Geneva are visiting UNICEF projects in Trincomalee.

25-31 May: NHK TV crew filming story on tsunami orphans in Matara for a six-month anniversary programme.