Sri Lanka's displaced grows to 265,000

Sri Lanka, May 18, 2009

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    REUTERS/Stringer, courtesy  </span>
    Tamil civilians stand next to their huts in a refugee camp located on the outskirts of the town of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer, courtesy

The war in Sri Lanka may appear to be over, but its humanitarian crisis is still unfolding.

In recent months, an estimated 265,000 Tamil civilians have fled the final battleground between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, according to the UN.

Mercy Corps has 90 staff members on the island helping families "build back better" from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In the two hardest-hit coastal areas, Mercy Corps is helping job-rich industries recover and fighting a food crisis that threatens the most vulnerable families.

In the country's north, our team is taking steps to help families uprooted to the Vavuniya district, home to the highest concentration of displacement camps. These sites are "already buckling under the pressure of the existing IDP population," according to the UN. Stocks of food and other critical items are running low.

Our plan is to erect temporary shelters, provide drinking water, build latrines and promote better hygiene practices — and ultimately help families return to their communities and rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

We're doing just that in Sri Lanka's conflict-scarred Eastern Province — helping people recover by providing small-scale rice farmers the tools and financing to improve their yields, and by working with multi-ethnic associations to build trust and lay a foundation for peaceful progress.