The Diocese of Colombo in the Church of Ceylon has responded swiftly and effectively to the crisis following recent flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka.
Last week, the Anglican Alliance hosted a conference call so that the team in Sri Lanka could update their partners around the Communion on their immediate relief response and their longer term vision for recovery and rehabilitation.
15 districts have been affected by floods and landslides and there have been 212 deaths. Over 600,000 people have been affected across southern Sri Lanka.
Binnu Jeevarajan, Board of Social Responsibility (BSR) Coordinator, Diocese of Colombo, said: “The flood has receded and people are slowly returning to their homes, unless their houses were damaged. Some are still staying in the camps to get relief.”
“As a diocese we are still responding to immediate needs with cooked meals and dry rations. Will are also focusing on recovery and have distributed cooking utensils and bedding. Volunteers and staff have helped to clean houses and wells, ensuring a safe drinking supply and prevent the spread of dengue fever.
The Church has been coordinating the response through the Disaster Management Centre at the diocesan office. The Diocese has send teams to the regions to assess needs. They are coordinating closely with the local government authorities and local civil society.
Binnu Jeevarajan, BSR Coordinator, said: “Thanks to Episcopal Relief & Development most people involved in the response had already been trained in India in disaster management, so they knew the [humanitarian] standards and how to work with local authorities. Our trained leaders guided the teams from the regions to provide necessary assistance. We are also training others in the National Council of Churches.”
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the Diocese supported 6,500 people with food and non-food items. Local clergy have been actively involved in the response. Volunteers were mobilised from the local parishes, Mothers’ Union, the Youth Fellowship and Anglican schools, helping to pack items to send out to the affected areas. In some cases the roads were blocked but the church team worked with the local authority to set up ropes to carry the relief supplies across to the affected communities. Churches, mosques and temples were used as places of refuge and relief.
Suren Goonesekera, BSR secretary, said: “We were able to work with other faiths – getting other religious leaders together. This was a real achievement.”
The diocesan team has also worked with the Amity Foundation, a social development organisation created on the initiative of Christians in China. Amity brought volunteer doctors and has conducted five medical camps. The Church provided an interpreter for the doctors. Amity also partnered the diocese for the needs assessment and the distribution of utensils, bedding, lanterns and other non-food items. As a fellow ACT Alliance member, Amity is also working with the National Christian Council, of which the Anglican Church of Ceylon is a member.
Suren Goonesekera, BSR secretary, said: “This is the first time we have worked with Amity and it was a good experience.”
The team also reported that ACROSS (Anglican Crisis Relief, Outreach & Support, Singapore), the relief agency of the Diocese of Singapore, are sending a mission in late June with doctors, nurses and pharmacists to run mobile medical camps in the South. The diocese worked with ACROSS earlier in 2016.
The diocese has a range of partners supporting their humanitarian work (see agency appeals below). Since the emergency stage coming to an end, the diocesan team are now moving on to assess their role in recovery and rehabilitation.
Binnu Jeevarajan, BSR Coordinator, said: “We also need to focus on school-going children. Most of their schools books and uniforms have been washed away. Today we had a discussion with the Bishop who had visited the South this week to see the needs. People have requested to have text and exercise books, plus uniforms and shoes.”
The diocesan team are monitoring to see if there is a need to fill any gaps in government provision for the rehabilitation of the schools and homes. They are also considering how to support livelihoods, as people’s income generating opportunities have been destroyed at the moment.
Dr Janice Proud, Relief Manager at the Anglican Alliance, commented on the conference call: “It is so encouraging to hear how you have managed to mobilise people and to learn what a difference the disaster preparedness training has made. Thank you for being such a blessing to the people.”
The colleagues in the Church of Ceylon said that they would be happy to share their experience and learning in disaster management with others in the Communion once their work on this crisis is completed.
Please keep the Church and people of Sri Lanka in your prayers at this time.
If you would like to support the Church’s response, here are some links for the partner appeals.
Other Anglican agencies, including USPG has also contributed to the Church of Ceylon’s relief work.