HelpAge aids older flood victims in Sri Lanka


By Caroline Graham

HelpAge International has distributed more than 16,000 household items to help older Sri Lankans and their families affected by this winter's floods.

The country has experienced its heaviest rains in 30 years, with more than one million people affected.

An older man receives items at distribution in Sri Lanka An older man receives items at a distribution in Sri Lanka this week. HelpAge Sri Lanka 2011

Through our sister organisation HelpAge Sri Lanka, we have sent 16 mobile medical units to provide health services and carried out distributions in Batticaloa and Ampara districts.

Our emergency response began on 26 January and included items such as five-litre bottles of drinking water, sheets and towels, clothing, plastic mats, soap, lanterns, mosquito nets and mosquito coils.

Hampered by bad weather

Dayal Perera, Director of Programmes, said: "Last Monday, heavy rains started and remained in the east and north. As a result we had to stop our flood response activities on Wednesday and Friday. But were able to make up the time by working on Sunday.

"The Meteorological Department says that rains will continue even in future.

"So far our mobile medical units have been able to cater for 2,315 older people."

Heavy rains over the last week have caused flooding in 18 districts.

Batticaloa is the second worst-hit district with 78,973 people displaced. A total of 14,029 people have been displaced in Ampara.

Unprecedented rainfall

Mr. Pathmakailanathan, Eastern Area Programme Manager of HelpAge Sri Lanka, said: "HelpAge Sri Lanka has been working in Ampara and Batticaloa Districts in the east since 2005 with tsunami-affected older people.

"Even in the past, these two districts were prone for natural disasters. But the rainfall this time was unprecedented and recorded the highest in the last 50 years.

"Analysts say that the rain fall during last two weeks equals to the rain fall of six months in a normal year.

"The country's Meteorological Department has predicted that the adverse weather patterns can hit north and east of Sri Lanka in future as well. So we will need to prepare older people in advance to mitigate the effects of such adverse weather conditions."

HelpAge's emergency relief effort has been carried out by HelpAge Sri Lanka staff from its regional office in Kalmunai.

Volunteers from the Senior Citizens Committees set up in Grama Niladhari, divisions of the two districts, also helped with relief efforts.

The funds for this response came from the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies (CBHA) which is funded by UKaid from the Department for International Development.

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