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ICRC - Sri Lanka bulletin No. 2 - 9 February 2005

Sri Lanka bulletin No. 2 - 9 February 2005 Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

Sri Lanka’s coastlines in the north, east, south and south-west were overwhelmed by the tsunami that followed the undersea earthquake that struck near Sumatra on 26 December. More than 30,000 people died in Sri Lanka, more than half of them in the north and east. Of the approximately 500,000 people currently displaced, 169,000 are housed in welfare centres (mostly temples and schools) while the rest are staying mainly with relatives or friends. Many of the displaced are moving to tented transit camps.

The ICRC, which has been present in northern and eastern Sri Lanka for 15 years, is coordinating the humanitarian response by components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including the German, French, Finnish, Norwegian and Swiss Red Cross Societies. It is also in charge of coordinating Movement efforts to restore family links in all countries affected by the disaster.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is responsible for setting strategy and laying down general operational guidelines for the whole region, in addition to coordinating specific operations in the south and south-west of Sri Lanka. Both the ICRC and the Federation are working closely with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and the national and local authorities. (For more information on operations in Sri Lanka, please visit the Federation website, at

The initial emergency phase of the response to the disaster is winding down. Efforts are now focusing on ensuring adequate mid-term shelter, health care, water, sanitation and food for the people made homeless. Meanwhile, work has begun on planning and coordinating the longer-term reconstruction and rehabilitation of the affected areas.


The ICRC is bringing aid to the survivors of the tsunami along the east coast of Sri Lanka from the Jaffna region in the north to the Ampara district in the south. The organization is providing health care and support for existing medical facilities, in addition to temporary accommodation for the displaced, and support for water and sanitation facilities. It is also distributing household essentials, including hygiene items. In the early stages of the disaster response, ICRC teams along with volunteers from the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society also helped survivors to restore contact with their families within the country and overseas.


Working with the local authorities, the Sri Lankan Red Cross and the ICRC had more than 30,000 family kits delivered to welfare centres in the north and east of the country. Such kits typically contain floor mats, bed sheets, soap, towels, buckets, jerrycans and plastic dishes. In addition, over 50 welfare centres in the same regions were provided with cooking pots and utensils for communal cooking.

Over 10,000 pieces of clothing (saris, sarongs, children’s clothes, underwear and socks) have been distributed so far to displaced families. The ICRC has also agreed to provide 30,000 displaced families with monthly hygiene kits over a six-month period. The kits contain soap, toothpaste, sanitary towels, bath towels, mosquito coils, etc. Additional items such as mosquito nets, slippers and kerosene lanterns are being distributed to the most vulnerable families.

In the Batticaloa district, a team from the Swiss Red Cross has been providing cooked food (rice, lentils and canned fish) as well as plastic sheeting and household items for 8,000 displaced families living in emergency welfare centres.


The ICRC has agreed to supply 5,000 tents to displaced families to enable them to move from the emergency welfare centres to transit camps in the districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaittivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara. Over 3,000 tents have been set up so far. For each tent, the ICRC is supplying five blankets.

In addition, the ICRC has distributed over 6,000 tarpaulins, and is providing latrines and washing facilities for 13 transit camps.

Water and sanitation

In addition to providing latrines and washing facilities in transit camps, the ICRC has also chlorinated wells and installed water tanks at six welfare centres and built latrines and upgraded existing sanitation facilities in cooperation with local authorities in Mullaittivu, Kilinochchi, Trincomalee and Batticaloa. It has also had fresh water trucked where necessary. The ICRC has also agreed to furnish the National Water Supply and Drainage Board with 480 tonnes of aluminium sulphate to purify drinking water and has provided the Board with transportation and technical equipment.

An ICRC water and sanitation team carried out emergency repairs to the existing wards of the Mullaittivu hospital and supplied tents to increase the hospital’s capacity. It also provided temporary on-site accommodation for nurses and other staff who lost their houses in the disaster. The ICRC team repaired the hospital’s main water well and made available two generators to maintain a 24-hour cool chain for the storage of drugs and vaccines.

Medical programmes

A 25-person medical team, many members of which are on loan from the German Red Cross, is providing support for the Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital. The team includes surgeons, anaesthetists, a general practitioner, a paediatrician, a gynaecologist, lab and X-ray technicians, midwives, nurses and administrators. The hospital has also been given 100 tonnes of supplies.

The Finnish Red Cross has opened a tent clinic in an area south of Komari, in Ampara district, and has treated over 300 patients. It is also sending mobile health units to the emergency welfare centres in the area. Also in Ampara district, the French Red Cross has deployed a basic health-care unit at Arguam Bay providing basic treatment, dental services and a dispensary for over 110 patients per day.

The Norwegian Red Cross has established a basic health-care unit in Eachchilampattai in Trincomalee district, which provides outpatient consultations, maternity care, public health services and minor surgery for the 10,000 residents of the area.

Some 250 Sri Lankan Red Cross volunteers in Batticaloa district are being trained in health education by the ICRC so that they can be deployed in welfare centres and transit camps in Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu. Over 50 Red Cross community health workers paid by the ICRC are already providing health-education services for displaced families.

In response to urgent requests from hospitals in Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu districts, the ICRC supplied the health authorities with tetanus toxoid vaccines, antibiotics, pain-killer tablets and other medications. In addition, it provided emergency health-care kits sufficient to treat 1,000 patients over a period of three months and surgical kits to conduct follow-up surgical treatment for 100 patients.

Restoring family links

Immediately following the disaster, the ICRC set up a website with information for people separated from their loved ones ( In cooperation with the Sri Lankan Red Cross and with the participation of tracing experts from the Netherlands, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Israel, the ICRC set up 12 mobile teams to help restore family links for survivors and their relatives.

The teams visited over 300 welfare centres in the districts of Colombo, Galle, Matara, Tangalle, Hambantota, Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu, where they gave people the opportunity to make over 1,700 satellite telephone calls – the majority to relatives overseas – and collected 417 “I Am Alive” messages that were posted on the website and published in the Sri Lankan media. Over 50 particularly vulnerable people were actively traced and contact with their families was restored through Red Cross messages. With the speedy restoration of normal communication channels in Sri Lanka, tsunami-related tracing activities have been scaled back.

Since 26 December, the ICRC in Sri Lanka has: provided a 25-member medical team (many on loan from the German Red Cross) to support Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital; set up over 3,000 tents for displaced families (an additional 2,000 will be set up in the coming weeks); distributed over 6,000 tarpaulins; delivered over 30,000 family kits containing mats, sheets, soap, towels, buckets, jerrycans and plastic dishes; distributed over 10,000 articles of clothing to displaced people; agreed to provide monthly hygiene kits for 30,000 families over a six-month period; provided drinking water and sanitation facilities for 13 transit camps; enabled displaced people to make over 1,700 satellite telephone calls to their families, and collected 417 “I Am Alive” messages.

© Scoop Media

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