HelpAge responds to Sri Lanka floods


By Navdha Malhotra

An older man is carried through floodwater An older Sri Lankan man is carried through floodwater a few days ago. HelpAge Sri Lanka/HelpAge International 2011 HelpAge International is providing urgently required relief to older people affected by the devastating floods that have hit Sri Lanka. Through our sister organisation HelpAge Sri Lanka we will distribute emergency aid to those most in need.

The country is experiencing its heaviest rains in 30 years, with over one million people affected.

Relentless rain

The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) of Sri Lanka estimates that around 260,000 families have been affected by the floods, caused by relentless rains for over two weeks.

Most of the roads in the Batticaloa, Ampara, Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa districts are inundated with floodwater. Over 500 welfare centres have been set up in all the flood affected districts sheltering over 150,000 people.

Mr. Pathmakailanathan, Eastern Area Programme Manager of HelpAge Sri Lanka (HASL), 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."

Thousands affected

"Batticaloa districts were the worst hit. According to statistics, 53% of families, the equivalent to 75,134 families, in Ampara district are affected. In Batticaloa district it is even higher with 90% of families, or 143,352 families, affected.

"Our initial surveys show that older people among the affected communities require medical care, mats, sarongs, towels, bed sheets, mosquito coils, house coats and also drinking water and lanterns.

"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.”

Vital aid for older people

HelpAge International will provide assistance and respond to the emergency needs of 2,500 older people in the Ampara and Batticaloa districts.

A fully staffed mobile medical unit has been diverted from Vavuniya in the North of the country to reach a large number of people. This will provide vital support for those who have difficulties in accessing health facilities.

Aid efforts include a supply of drinking water and distribution of hygiene kits. Clothes, bedding and lanterns will also be provided.

Volunteers to help with relief effort

The initial spot assessment was carried out following requests from divisional secretaries and government agents from the worst-affected areas, with whom HelpAge Sri Lanka has a close relationship.

The project will be implemented 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 will also help with the relief efforts.

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