With the start of the Southwest monsoon on 25 May 2017, Sri Lanka received heavy rainfall in its southern and western regions, with some parts getting over 500 mm rainfall. Flash floods and landslides caused 214 deaths with 76 people being reported as missing by 22 June 2017. At the height of the emergency, more than 700,000 people were displaced in camps, or staying with host families, or stranded on their own rooftops for days until the floods subsided. Galle, Kalutara, Matara and Ratnapura are the worst-affected districts.
As the emergency situation normalizes and people are seeking recovery options, Disaster Management Center (DMC) reports that over 415,600 people continue to be affected by the most recent floods and landslides with 3,554 people still living in 77 camps.
With renewed possibility of increased rainfall over the country, landslide warnings are in effect for Ratnapura, Kalutara, Galle, Kegalle, Matara, Nuwara Eliya and Hambantota districts.
Concurrently, the prolonged drought condition since mid-2016, continue to impact over 849,752 people in 11 districts in North, East, Northcentral, Northwestern and Uva provinces according to the DMC. The authorities are distributing water through water trucks to drought-affected families in some areas only. UNICEF has initiated tube well rehabilitation near the affected communities.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
Floods / Landslides: With the onset of the Southwest monsoon over Sri Lanka, torrential rains – the worst to hit the country since 2003 – inundated the western and southern regions. Many incidents of deadly landslides had been reported along with flash floods causing 213 deaths and 76 people missing to date. As the situation normalizes, 3,554 people are now reported as displaced in 77 evacuation centres. In Rathnapura district alone 2,776 people (62% of total displaced) continue to live in 49 camps awaiting durable solutions.
The Department of Meteorology predicted a slight increase in rainy conditions over the Southwestern parts of the island from 14 June 2017 onwards. However, heavy rainfall over the country is not predicted.
By 15 June 2017, all the schools which were affected and/or used as temporary camps had been re-opened and the displaced community members have been relocated to temporary shelters either in religious places or community centers. In high-risk landslide areas, the Education authorities and the school management are liaising with the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) to assess and verify the cutting failure risks and subsequent building damages to the schools in order to decide whether the schools should be relocated or not. Until then, some classrooms which are at immediate threat of collapsing will not be used. Children attending classes have been shifted to nearby places, such as temples.
Many hospitals and healthcare facilities were fully or partially evacuated if directly affected by the floods or exposed to landslide risk. Following the floods and landslides several facilities require reconstruction, replacement of equipment and/or relocation to a new site.
Drought: At the same time, in the Northern, Eastern, Northcentral and Northwestern provinces over 849,000 continue to suffer from lack of drinking water due to prolonged drought conditions since mid-2016. Despite heavy rains and subsequent floods in southern region, hydro-power generating reservoirs have not yet filled. Due to limited water in these reservoirs (42%), the Ministry of Power and Energy had requested the general public to use electricity sparingly.
Many people access drinking water through water bowser services maintained by the local authorities and private companies. Some communities have to pay high prices to receive water through water trucking. UNICEF together with the Ministry of City Planning and Water Supply and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is in the process of flushing and rehabilitating 834 tube wells in 11 districts to ensure improved access to ground water sources at a proximity to the drought-affected communities. In addition, UNICEF supported the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) to establish 1,025 interim water points which are being refilled by water trucks. Plans to construct 25 new tube wells in severely-drought affected Mullaitivu district is ongoing along with improvement and expansion of Rural Water Supply systems and island water improvement support in Jaffna peninsula. UNICEF is in the process of purchasing two water trucks to be donated to the NWS&DB to improve water transportation and delivery capacity in Colombo and Gampaha districts where salinity intrusion was a major health concern.
Furthermore, UNICEF procured 1,500 cartons of BP100 biscuits and 1,800 infant kits on behalf of the Family Health Bureau under the Ministry of Health (MoH) targeting children in drought-affected districts. The items arrived in Sri Lanka in early June 2017 and delivered to MoH. The Field Water Quality Testing kits for 360 Medical Officer of Health units were procured overseas and en route to Sri Lanka. UNICEF is also discussing with the MoH to scale up the real-time nutrition surveillance system to drought-affected districts to improve nutrition monitoring.
During the past 6 months, a total of 59,760 dengue patients and over 150 dengue deaths have been reported from all parts of the country according to the Epidemiology Unit of the MoH. UNICEF supported the health authorities in the Eastern Province to conduct public awareness campaigns and environment clean-ups to eradicate dengue epidemic.