Mercy Corps prepares to help displaced families in northern Sri Lanka

May 19, 2009

Aid agency moves to bring water, sanitation and shelter to thousands of people who fled brutal conflict

Portland, OR – The global relief and development agency Mercy Corps is taking steps to help thousands of people displaced by recent intense conflict in northern Sri Lanka. As the Sri Lankan Government declared an end to the war with Tamil separatists that has plagued the country for decades, the aid agency highlighted the needs of the many civilians who had been caught in the crossfire.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, approximately 265,000 people have fled fighting between the government and the Tamil Tigers in the last several months. Most have fled to large, overcrowded displacement camps in the Vavuniya District. A Mercy Corps assessment team recently visited these camps, and found an intense need for immediate resources such as food, shelter, water and sanitation.

Mercy Corps plans to begin work by helping 1,000 displaced people gain access to potable water, latrines and semi-permanent shelter. “The people living in these camps have been terrorized by conflict and deprived of basic resources for months. They are on the very edge of survival,” said Paul Armour, Mercy Corps country director in Sri Lanka. “Our goal is to help fill immediate needs, and then get these families back on the road to recovery.”

Earlier this week, the Sri Lankan army declared victory in its decades-long war against Tamil rebels. According to news reports, most rebel leaders have been killed and the army now controls all of the island for the first time since 1983. “The war may have ended, but for many people the fight for survival is just beginning,” said Armour.

Mercy Corps already has significant operations in Sri Lanka, where 90 development professionals have been helping families “build back better” from the devastating 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 poorest families. In Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, the agency is also working with multi-ethnic associations to build trust and lay a foundation for peaceful progress.


Mercy Corps
Sri Lanka Emergency Fund
Dept NR
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208