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Brighter future for displaced citizens:

UN Habitat's Northern mega project in full swing

The UN Habitat's mega project in the North - the Shelter Recovery for Northern IDPs, is in full swing to usher in a brighter future for civilians who were rescued from the jaws of LTTE terror during the 2009 humanitarian operation.

The mega housing project to construct and renovate 8,000 houses will open a new era in the North with funding support from Australian AID, the European Union and the Swiss Development Corporation.

The first stage of the project funded by the AusAID of the Government of Australia at a cost of US $ 9.34 million (Aus $10 million) has already been completed. It includes 3,785 houses in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya Districts.

A spokesman for the UN Habitat said that the end of LTTE terror has given an opportunity for sustainable peace and recovery for Sri Lanka - especially for the displaced families and all those who were directly affected to resume their livelihood with a sense of urgency.

"A safe and secure home provides a cornerstone, a stable and secure base for the returnees, upon which they can rehabilitate their lives. A permanent home is the most valuable family asset in a financial sense, and also a key contributor to their social dignity," according to the UN Habitat. Early assistance will ensure that these families reintegrate themselves as key contributors in the interdependent cycle of peace and development of Sri Lanka.

Since the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, hundreds of thousands of families returned only to find that their homes had been devastated. During the period of terror unleashed by the now defunct LTTE, these hapless civilians had been subjected to untold privations - through physical and psychological trauma of losing family and friends, their whereabouts, possessions and livelihoods. Some had been dislodged times and upon their return umpteen found their homes un-inhabitable, damaged or fully destroyed.

Permanent homes

Under Phase One of the project, nearly 4,000 families have been provided permanent homes with special focus on vulnerable families including female-headed households, those disabled and youth. Eighty housing construction groups were actively involved with the first stage,ensuring community cohesion and development. Vulnerable families have been supported in obtaining security of land tenure (ownership).

With an "owner driven" approach, the program has helped families to actively take charge of their own recovery - plan, implement and monitor their own progress. Their early involvement ensures that the end result is a "home", which reflects their own aspirations.

The process also rekindles the local economy; materials and labour procured locally ensures that the funds remain within the communities, while the families save money by providing their labour.

The UN Habitat teams in the field have provided technical assistance and guidance for reconstruction. When the beneficiaries encounter legal, tenure or other impromptu challenges, these teams assists the local government authorities.

The more vulnerable groups, such as women headed households and those disabled are given priority.

So far, 3,785 families have completed rebuilding their homes in the Divisional Secretariats of Kandawali, Karachchi, Poonakary, Manthai East, Oddusuddan, Thunukkai and Vavuniya North. Stage two of the project too has already begun and will be completed in the near future.

Under Phase Two, The European Commission (EC), Australian government (AusAID) and the Swiss government (SDC) would support the UN-HABITAT to reach out to another 4,400 new families with permanent housing support in the Northern Province in partnership over the next two-and-a-half years.

Beneficiary families

USD 23.5 million has been provided targeting the districts of Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya, and will help beneficiary families to resume their livehoods with a sense of urgency. UN-HABITAT has been invited by the Government's Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province to assist in the permanent shelter and infrastructure recovery in the North.

Over 50 villages will be assisted under this program to reconstruct 2,200 fully damaged houses, and the major repair of another 2,200 damaged houses. The UN Habitat assistance will help in social integration and help those displaced to recover from the deep trauma faced by them during terrorist activities through physical injury, loss of family members, livelihoods and physical assets.

Through a "Home Owner Driven" approach, this program seeks to "empower" the beneficiary families to be in charge of their own recovery process. This methodology has proved successful in the post-tsunami recovery program of UN-HABITAT in rebuilding over 10,000 homes, while establishing strong communities and community infrastructure.

Technical assistance and guidance for reconstruction will be provided to all beneficiaries by field based UN-HABITAT teams. Vulnerable groups such as women headed households and those physically disabled will be given priority to ensure their safety and welfare. As a result, the destruction of documents due to terrorism, many families find it difficult to prove their ownership of land and it is anticipated that over 1,000 families will benefit from the assistance to establish the security of tenure.

Over 600 youth from beneficiary communities will receive a training in construction skills through the technical support under an SDC initiative. The families will also provide labour. The reconstruction efforts and material will be procured locally, thereby helping the growth of local economies.

 

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