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Fear for health of remote communities as severe rainfall nears Sri Lanka

Urgent humanitarian support is needed for the thousands of children who have been affected by severe flooding in Sri Lanka, warns child rights organisation Plan International.

Women and girls collect water at their temporary shelter in Ratnapura
Women and girls collect water at their temporary shelter in Ratnapura

COLOMBO – With heavy rainfall expected to resume this week, urgent humanitarian support is needed for the thousands of children who have been affected by severe flooding in Sri Lanka, warns child rights organisation Plan International.

Days after what is being called the worst flooding since 2003, children and their families remain in evacuation centres with limited supplies and poor sanitation facilities, having lost their personal belongings when their homes were damaged or destroyed.

The flooding impacted the west coast of Sri Lanka, killing 164 people and affecting more than 471,000 individuals. As a precaution, the Government of Sri Lanka and humanitarian organisations are continuing to evacuate families in areas likely to be affected by additional flooding. 

Health concerns for children in evacuation centres

“We are particularly concerned about the safety and health of children, especially girls, living in the evacuation centres,” said Menake Wijesinghe, Plan International’s Disaster Response and Resilience Advisor in Sri Lanka.

We are particularly concerned about the safety and health of children, especially girls, living in the evacuation centres

“When I visited a camp in Ratnapura district, which is in one of the worst affected areas, the women and girls in particular faced privacy issues, and the lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities were also of critical concern.

“The continued rainfall and strong winds, which are predicted for the coming week, will only exacerbate the situation, causing further destruction, displacing more people, and making the delivery of humanitarian support an even greater challenge.

Residents survey damage to their house which was hit by landslide in Ratnapura District
Residents survey damage to their house which was hit by landslide in Ratnapura District

“On top of this, there is a risk that communities, particularly those in the most remote areas, will become completely inaccessible. This is a major concern because families there have already told us that water tanks are full of contaminated, muddy water. If we cannot get clean drinking water to them soon, the risk of diarrhoea will increase, and there will also be an increased risk of water-borne diseases like cholera and dengue fever.”

there is a risk that communities, particularly those in the most remote areas, will become completely inaccessible

Plan International's response

Plan International’s humanitarian response teams are currently in Ratnapura district assessing the immediate needs of children and families.

Top of the relief requests are sanitary supplies for women and girls, cooking utensils for community kitchens, mattresses and blankets, as well as psychosocial support for the children who have had their lives turned upside down by the disaster. 

The Government of Sri Lanka has closed dozens of schools in several affected areas for the foreseeable future. The schools are also being used as temporary camp locations which will have implications for the day-to-day operation of schools in these areas.

School materials, supplies and books were damaged in the floods, and will also need to be replenished. Children still have another two months to go before the end of term and have expressed concerns about losing out on their education.

Plan International continues to monitor the situation and is working closely with the government and other humanitarian organisations to coordinate its response.