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ICRC: Sri Lanka bulletin No. 3 – 18 February 2005

Sri Lanka bulletin No. 3 – 18 February 2005 Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

The ICRC, which has been present in northern and eastern Sri Lanka for 15 years, is coordinating the humanitarian response in those areas by components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including the German, French, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish 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 southern and south-western 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 area in the north to the Ampara district in the south. The organization is providing health care and support for existing medical facilities as well as 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 Lankan Red Cross 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 have had more than 25,000 family kits delivered to welfare centres and other displaced persons in the north and east of the country. Such kits typically contain floor mats, bed sheets, soap, towels, buckets, jerry cans and plastic dishes. In addition, over 50 welfare centres in the same regions have been provided with cooking pots and utensils for communal cooking.

Nearly 10,000 pieces of clothing have so far been distributed to displaced families. The ICRC has agreed to furnish 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.


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.

In addition, the ICRC has distributed over 6,700 tarpaulins.

Water and sanitation

In addition to providing latrines and washing facilities in transit camps, the ICRC has cleaned and chlorinated wells, installed water tanks at several welfare centres, built latrines and upgraded existing sanitation facilities in cooperation with local authorities in Mullaittivu, Kilinochchi, Trincomalee and Batticaloa. The Swedish Red Cross is carrying out a well-cleaning program in Pottuvil, in southern Ampara district. The German Red Cross is operating a water-treatment system in Komari which distributes up to 120,000 litres of clean water per day to resident communities and displaced people in the area. The ICRC has also agreed to furnish the National Water Supply and Drainage Board with 480 tonnes of aluminum sulphate with which to purify drinking water.

An ICRC water and sanitation team carried out emergency repairs to Mullaittivu hospital and supplied tents to increase the hospital’s capacity. It also provided temporary on-site accommodation for nurses and other staff who had lost their homes in the disaster.

Medical programmes

A 25-person medical team, many members of which are on loan from the German Red Cross, is providing support for Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital. The team includes surgeons, anaesthetists, a general practitioner, a paediatrician, a gynaecologist, a physiotherapist, 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. This has so far treated over 300 patients. It also sent mobile health units to the emergency welfare centres in the area and is aiding a local government health dispensary. Also in Ampara district, the French Red Cross has deployed a basic health-care unit at Arguam Bay to provide 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.

The Italian Red Cross has set up a field hospital in Vakarai, furnishing paediatric, gynecological, emergency and basic health care. It has also deployed five mobile health units to surrounding villages to improve the rural population's access to health care.

Some 250 Sri Lankan Red Cross volunteers in Batticaloa district are being trained in health education by the ICRC to prepare them to work in welfare centres and transit camps. In Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu, meanwhile, over 50 Red Cross community health workers paid by the ICRC are providing first aid and health-education services for displaced families. They had just received their certification in late December and, when the tsunami struck, were often among the first on the scene to care for survivors.

Restoring family links

Immediately following the disaster, the ICRC launched 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 contact between 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.


In Sri Lanka, the ICRC currently counts on 90 international and 340 national staff. It has offices in Colombo, Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Muthur, Vavuniya, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Puthukkudiyiruppu, and Jaffna.

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 25,000 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.

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