Next steps for Sri Lanka on the path to peace
29 April 2010
Caritas says Sri Lanka has yet to emerge from decades of conflict with a real peace.
Food distribution at a relief camp for displaced people in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan government seized the last remaining Tamil Tiger (LTTE) rebel territory in May 2009, ending a 30 year war.
But Caritas Sri Lanka says much work needs to create the conditions where peace can flourish.
Caritas says urgent action is needed on resettlement of displaced people, on reconstruction of war-damaged areas, landmine clearance, and reducing tensions between different communities.
The majority of people driven from their homes by the fighting have left relief camps for resettlement areas or transit camps.
However, around 90,000 people remain in camps. Caritas staff working in the camps say conditions are difficult.
"Extremely high temperatures coupled with water shortages make the situation bad," said Fr George Sigamoney, Director of Caritas Sri Lanka.
"The focus is shifting towards resettlement, but the needs of the people remaining in the camps must be maintained. For example, educational facilities for children in the camps are inadequate."
Caritas Sri Lanka reports that returnees are happy at being able to restart their lives, but have highlighted insufficient basic services such as transportation, lack of clean water, health services and roads.
A large number of properties are damaged. Reconstruction in the North is going to be very costly since most of the infrastructure is totally destroyed.
A large number of widows, female-headed families, disabled, orphans and elders will need support.
Caritas says that tensions among communities at different stages of the return process have surfaced with allegations of theft of cattle and disputes over common water resources.
Language barriers between different communities also need to be overcome.
A large area in the Vanni district remains to be de-mined. Even in areas cleared for settlement, land mines and other unexploded objects are still being found.
Caritas is one of very few aid agencies with permission to work in the war-affected communities.
Caritas is running various projects to help Sri Lankans rebuild their lives after the war in Jaffna, Vanni and Mannar. During the last months, over 130,000 people have received aid from Caritas.
Caritas focuses on shelter, the needs of farmers, fishermen, small-scale traders, masons, carpenters, education (especially for orphans), counselling, and healthcare.
Caritas also helps former combatants and former child soldiers make a fresh start, and peace building measures to avoid further conflict.
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