Post disaster, communities complain:
No relief, no support
As the victims of the catastrophic cyclone which ravaged through the
island struggle to recover from the damage caused, indifference and
bureaucracy is slowly setting in. The authorities have already started
receiving complaints on aid distribution and are yet to establish a
transparent mechanism to effectively channel the monetary aid flowing
into the country, for recovery efforts.
Indian Air Force carrier
offloading relief material at the Bandaranaike International
The National Disaster Relief Service Centre has received 678 written
complaints on aid distribution. This is apart from the complaints
received through their 'hotline 117', of which a count is yet to be
A little over 200 complaints with regard to food distribution have
been settled by the Disaster Management Ministry. However, serious
complaints regarding housing assistance and long term relief have been
referred to the respective Government Agents for verification of facts.
According to official data, 688 houses are fully damaged and 5,194
houses partially damaged in the affected districts.
The victims complain, the return to normalcy is moving at snail's
pace with officials still grappling to come to terms with the scope of
"Relief distribution has been completely messed up, sans an effective
mechanism to reach the victims, and there is lack of coordination,"
complained M. Akbar a resident of the Wallampitiya area. His house and
property have been completely destroyed in the floods, leaving them with
nothing, he said.
Lucky are those who receive people-donated dry rations, said an
officer engaged in aid distribution at ground level, who requested
anonymity due to government regulations.
Some flood victims in Colombo complained of receiving rice packs with
the expiry date reading 2014 among the government sent rations acquired
from Cooperative outlets, the officer said.
As Sri Lanka experienced the Roanu many countries rushed in with
humanitarian aid in the immediate aftermath. The cargo arrived in
aircraft and ships, to be distributed among the severely affected.
Japan was the first to send in foreign emergency assistance on May
20, followed by India, our closest neighbour. India dispatched two ships
of the Indian Navy from Kochi on May 20. The same day, an Indian Air
Force C-17 transport aircraft was also sent with additional supplies.
The relief items started to pour in from other countries thereafter.
The US, Nepal, Australia, Pakistan, Singapore, Germany, Turkey,
Israel and China were among the countries who extended condolences and
expressed solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka at their time of need.
The European Union too sent in emergency assistance for the worst
affected people in five districts.
The material aid received from foreign countries was directly sent to
a warehouse in Orugodawatte, and distribution carried out based on a
needs assessments done by Government Agents, said Additional Secretary
of the Disaster Management Ministry Dr. S.Amalanathan.
"We have set up, district level coordinating committees to handle the
aid distribution," he said, adding that these committees comprise
ministers of the area and community leaders.
The local and foreign donations are stored at the Orugodawatte
facility. When a request is made for an item, for instance, tents or
purification tablets, the Ministry will issue directives to release the
goods from their central warehouse. But the stream of complaints
indicates that there are issues that need to be addressed urgently, Dr
The Aranayake and Bulathkohupitiya landslides and the floods in the
Western Province have affected 411, 809 people belonging to 104, 667
families in 22 districts.
Immediate relief requirements were for tents, clothing, blankets,
medication, generators, water purification units, etc. The goods were
received within hours with the generosity of foreign governments as well
as local donors.
"We have reviewed the needs and now the requirement is for 600 family
tents and 1,200 tarpaulin tents," Dr.Amalanathan said, adding that these
are for people who have fled after more landslide warnings were issued
by the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO), in the Central
and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.
Most of the people displaced by floods have gone back to their
houses, but the Aranayake and Bulathkohupitiya landslide victims have no
place to call home. The government has discussed the possibility of
building cluster houses or condominium type houses for the victims.
President Maithripala Sirisena directed the officials last week to
complete the acquiring of land within two weeks.
By May 31, the number of displaced have reduced to 14,327 (4,373
families). They have been put up in 167 IDP camps by the government, in
the Kegalle, Colombo, Gampaha, Ratnapura and Kalutara distrits. There is
a significant number living with relatives.
Although the floods spared many lives, the people affected said they
were as good as dead. Many of them who owned home based SMEs, have been
left with nothing.
Within days of the disaster, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced
the opening of a bank account to receive donations in foreign currencies
to help rebuild the disaster struck areas. The idea was to facilitate
Sri Lankan expatriates and others who want to contribute to the relief
However, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said they do not keep
accounts of the collection. There was no way of knowing how much
monetary aid was received to this account, and what happens to the
Many countries at the outset commended the Sri Lankan authorities for
their effective response to the natural disaster under such difficult
circumstances. But the affected people, today, are still waiting for an
opportunity to build a new life and forget their sorrows.
Rebuilding their lives should not be another struggle faced with
bureaucracy and red tape. To wipe away their hopelessness, all they need
is a little help from the state and a lot of encouragement from the