Report of a panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka

By Guy Philcott
Continued from Wednesday

The UN Resident Co-ordinator, at a CCHA meeting estimated trapped civilians to be 120,000 to 180,000 on the 30th of March 2009.UNOCHA estimates being the figure to be 75,000 to 150,000 also in March 2009.Sir John Holmes in his briefing to the UN Security Council estimated that 150,000-190,000 civilians are “squeezed into this area”. The WFP continued to supply essentials to an IDP population estimated at more than 210,000 during the latter stages of 2008 while over 280,000 persons arrived ultimately from the Vanni.

Manik Farm
An abandoned farm land with flat terrain ,bordered by the  Medawachchiya-Mannar main road A-14 on the south was Malwathu oya (river) where Hydro geologists identified the site to contain ground water with 234 tube wells were dug by the NWSDB and used by the IDPs was the location of Manik Farm. An evaluation on the UNHCR/UNDP Venture on Drainage and Environmental Service Delivery Improvement in the Manik Farm welfare camp, “The main outcome in the overall development, as seen by the evaluators is the protection provided to a huge population, through providing shelter robust enough to withstand the harsh and changing weather conditions of the area, and the fact that such provision had to be effected fast within a very short time frame. The numerous initiatives of the local civil administration, the SLA, the health authorities, Government infrastructure organizations together with several international and local organizations, succeeded in keeping the population free of any significant food, water, health, hygiene, or safety issues, a commendable achievement acclaimed globally. This achievement has countered the many predictions of critics over possible issues on the protection and welfare of IDPs and the capacity of Sri Lankans to handle such an eventuality.”

Extract from the UNHCR Emergency Shelter Coordinating Meeting of February 26, 2009

The Senior Programme Officer, UNHCR informed the participants that he has received requests from agencies from Vavuniya to try and improve the standards of emergency shelters by covering them with cadjan to reduce the heat in these shelters. They were also of the opinion that these shelters are provided for emergency situations and only for short periods.

Extract from the minutes of the June 18, 2009 meeting of UNHCR Shelter / NFI

There was a consensus among shelter agencies that concrete platforms are not suitable for a variety of reasons for shelters and tents in the manik Farm Zones. The CA has expressed his intention to distribute cement and sand to IDPs for the platforms. It was known to the committee that the competent authority in Vavuniya has taken action to distribute 02 numbers of cement bags and sand in zones 0 and 3 for the flooring.

Extract from minutes of UNHCR Shelter / NFI meeting of June 18, 2009

The Senior Programme Officer, UNHCR stated that he had received notice from some NGOs on constraints from Donors in building emergency shelters. The agencies confirmed that they do have a few issues but as long as they provide only Emergency Shelters according to the agreed norms the donors were satisfied with it. 

Extract from the minutes of the July 9, 2009 meeting of UNHCR Shelter / NFI

IOM mentioned that the emergency shelter is designed to last for at least 03 months, and that the current structure would not support the monsoon rains.

Extract from the minutes of the July 30, 2009 meeting of UNHCR Shelter / NFI

“Government of Sri Lanka’s initial 180 days plans for returns started 30 days ago. Presidential office is coordinating this plan. The head of Task Force on Returns had a meeting with UN agencies detailing the plan and expectations.”. Within 2 months of the end fighting a return programme was known by the UN , though reports to the contrary have been published.

The government by June 2009, as discussed with the UN Special Representative, commenced a programme sending IDPs with special needs to kith kin outside the IDP Welfare Village with written consent that they will look after them, viz. The categories included: Elders (over 59 years of age.);Pregnant mothers with their family; Families with infants; Disabled persons; On medical grounds (Chronic Debilitating Illnesses); University students; Sri Lankans now citizens from other countries; Priests.

Care for Women and Children were given the utmost importance. Services were provided by the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment and the National Child Protection Agency, the police, the Ministry of Social Services and the Ministry of Health. Family health workers, with experience in midwifery, were allocated to all blocks and made regular visits to check on family health matters.

Almost all of them were chosen from previously active government health staff amongst the IDPs and reported to the Zonal Health Coordinators. 

The Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Welfare established Units to assist with issues related specifically to women and children in each of the Welfare Villages and administered by Tamil speaking female police officers and designed to provide a facility that provided privacy to the complainant.

Return and Resettlement
A Presidential Task Force was established in May 2009  tasked to implement a strategic framework for rapid resettlement and recovery programme accelerated demining and improvement of infrastructure facilities, and to assess damages and identify resource requirements.

The expenditure incurred by the GoSL to implement the 180-day programme  including the investment for procurement of demining flail machines and heavy equipment for infrastructure rehabilitation was $360.3 Mn from funds in the budget for approximately 112,000 families who  returned to their areas of origin.

The process of return included ascertaining places of origin for cross checking with District Secretary, demining approach roads to buildings for essential services and places of return, rehabilitation of basic infrastructure facilities, obtaining demining certificates, ’go and see’ visits by IDP’s with GN’s, obtaining consent of IDP’s to resettle, transportation to transitional locations, mine risk education, visits to prepare shelter, provision of resettlement package with all tools and amenities and cash grants and 6 months rations, continuous rehabilitation of infrastructure and commencement of early recovery programmes.

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