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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 81

Sri Lanka Government’s Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction efforts going on apace for IDPs

By Fathima Razik - in Settikulam

Vavuniya, 13 June, ( Sri Lanka Government’s efforts to reconcile, rehabilitate and reconstruct is going on apace in the Vavuniya district, as the internally displaced persons (IDPs) settle down to a normal life, albeit with some difficulties and shortcomings, considering that more than 223,000 persons are provided accommodation, healthcare and education, in addition to every of their need met as far as possible, day in day out.

The Kathirgamar, Ananda Coomaraswamy (in Zone I), Ramanathan (Zone II), Arunachalam (in Zone III), and Zone IV and Zone V Relief Villages in Settikulam are presently home to these unfortunate victims of a war, that brought them nothing but misery and loss of lives of loved ones, property and almost all personal belongings over the past 30 years by a group of terrorists – the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who perpetuated everything that any decent human being would abhor, in the name of liberating the Tamils from a perceived oppression by the majority Sinhalese led governments of the day. The fact that this senseless war also killed thousands of Muslims and Sinhalese, and displaced hundreds of thousands of them in addition to them to losing their livelihoods, property and personal belongings is the harsh reality of the day.

At the Kathirgamar Transitional Relief Village this writer had the opportunity of speaking to many IDPs who spoke of the peace, they now experience everyday as their lives are now sans fear and hunger. "We are provided our basic needs and we are thankful to the government and security forces who are looking after us," said an IDP. "Our children attend school within this relief village and children who are studying for their O’ Levels and A’ Levels come from the other relief villages to the school here. Our children therefore get the opportunity of interacting with other children," said another victim of war. Authoritative sources said that the school in this particular relief village has been upgraded to cater to the higher grades and children from the other zones are transported here by bus and taken back at the end of the sessions.

Schools are conducted in two sessions – morning and afternoon, to cater to the thousands of school going children. Their needs in terms of books, pens, et al, are met while teachers give of their best with the limited resources in terms of buildings and furniture, available. Within all relief villages, children between 3-5 years are accommodated in a nursery. They have a large, equipped outdoor play area that is wholly funded, including a monthly allowance for the teachers by social service organisations while the buildings are put up by the government. The nursery is also conducted in two sessions. These children are provided with a snack mid-way. “We are relieved that our children are now safe. We can see them studying and playing. In the past, when they went to school we were not sure if they will come back and we lived in fear and anxiety,” said a mother, wiping her tears.

While the IDPs are advised to use water carefully and avoid waste due to the drought, water is provided everyday to meet all basic needs. The Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition conducts awareness on cleanliness, hygiene and garbage disposal – and these steps show that the message has borne fruit considering that the open areas within the relief villages are relatively clean with garbage being collected and put into bins that are located at points.

Doctors and nursing staff from the government service conduct clinics daily, starting in the morning and stopping for a short afternoon break after which they commence the next session and go on till dusk. The Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition coordinates these medical clinics, providing the necessary drugs as well. Similarly two state banks – the Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank provide services to meet every banking need including taking care of the jewellery that many IDPs had managed to protect, in safety lockers without any charge.

Psycho social issues that are a 'by-product' of any war situation are also evident within the camps and such issues are ably handled by the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare that has set up a Counselling and Psycho Social Centre within the relief villages. Co-operative stores operate, making available essential items for sale at reasonable rates. Many homes have set up vegetable plots within their allotted space and certain vegetables and yams are seen thriving.

Life therefore goes on within the relief villages and zones while the authorities are working round the clock to upgrade and improve existing conditions to the best of their ability with assistance provided by many social service and non-governmental organisations, the private sector and individuals from all strata of society, so as to make the lives of these innocent and unfortunate victims of terror, peaceful and fruitful.

- Asian Tribune -

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