UMCOR established its office in Sri Lanka following the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Country operations are based in Colombo with program offices in Batticaloa and, Vavuniya. UMCOR’s work in Sri Lanka includes the following activities: emergency relief, housing repair and construction, supporting the restoration of basic public services through repairs to community infrastructure, providing vocational and business skills training along with tools, and equipment to (re)establish livelihoods and building the capacity of local institutions to independently address the needs of tsunami and conflict affected communities. All of UMCOR’s programs in Sri Lanka are carried out in close cooperation with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka (MCSL).
Against the backdrop of continuing reconstruction in tsunami–affected areas, an escalated military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2008 and 2009 resulted in mass displacement from the island’s northern province. While the nearly three-decade long civil conflict finally came to an end in May 2009, the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents have been disrupted as a result of damaged and looted houses, destroyed paddy fields, inadequate health and education facilities, damaged infrastructure, and limited employment opportunities. Within this challenging and dangerous environment UMCOR is working to alleviate the suffering caused by the tsunami and conflict.
Emergency Response & Intervention
From 2007 to March 2011, UMCOR managed an umbrella grant program that enabled other humanitarian agencies to provide quick responses to the emergency needs of conflict-affected people in the North and East of Sri Lanka. The program, funded by the US Agency for International Development, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), supported interventions in areas such as livelihoods, water and sanitation, and shelter. Over the course of the program, UMCOR awarded grants totaling nearly $7.5m for 52 assistance programs throughout conflict-affected areas of Sri Lanka.
UMCOR also implemented its own emergency assistance program that focused on helping internally displaced and returning residents of the north. In the spring and summer of 2009, when IDP camps filled with nearly 300,000 displaced Tamil civilians, UMCOR provided emergency food and water rations, hygiene items, medical supplies, and gulley suckers to keep camp waste systems functional. As people began to return to their homes, UMCOR provided needed items such as bicycles to facilitate mobility to schools, markets, and jobs.
With support from the International Organization for Migration and Lutheran World Relief, UMCOR responded to severe flooding in Eastern Sri Lanka at the beginning of 2011. In Trincomalee, one of the hardest hit districts, UMCOR distributed Non Food Item (NFI) kits to over 3,000 families. These kits contained essential items such as mosquito nets and coils, sleeping mats and towels and basic hygiene items including bathing soap, washing powder, toothpaste and brushes, sanitary pads and disinfectant. In Batticaloa, UMCOR distributed relief kits to approximately 2,500 families, which included both NFIs and essential food items such as biscuits, water bottles, infant food/formula (as appropriate), and a basic dry food pack for a family of 5 for 5 days.
In collaboration with the MCSL and the Government of Sri Lanka, UMCOR has built or repaired over 900 houses in Batticaloa and Trincomalee that will enable more than 3,500 vulnerable tsunami and conflict affected people to have appropriate shelter. Priority is given to assisting the most socio-economically vulnerable persons, such as single-headed households; families with large numbers of children; households with sick, elderly, or disabled persons; and families that have remained displaced since the tsunami and are living in welfare centers, temporary shelters, or with friends and relatives.
UMCOR is repairing community infrastructure so that families can access clean water, sanitation, electricity, and improved roads. UMCOR Sri Lanka has carried out a variety of small scale projects that have helped substantially improve thousands of lives, such as constructing semi-permanent classrooms and water and sanitation facilities for an elementary school in Batticaloa; development of a playground in Batticaloa for children attending the same elementary school; rehabilitation of the water supply network in Trincomalee so that families have access to potable water; and construction of access roads so that fishermen can more easily get to the sea and farmers can reach their paddy fields.
The tsunami virtually wiped out the fishing industry in eastern Sri Lanka and destroyed much of the coastal agricultural industry. UMCOR Sri Lanka is working to revive the livelihoods of both agricultural and fishing communities. By working with local fishing societies, UMCOR and MCSL were able to identify the communities’ priorities and implement appropriate projects such as clearing potential net destroying debris on the beach and underwater through paid work programs, providing materials for creating new fishing nets, constructing vadis (beach houses) so that fishermen have a temporary place to stay, and providing new boats for sea and lagoon fishing.
UMCOR is supporting the recovery of the local agricultural industry by repairing small to medium sized reservoirs that were destroyed during the tsunami. These tanks, drainage and irrigation channels, now usable, were once clogged with silt. UMCOR is also providing seeds, tools, and fertilizer to small landholding farmers so that they can provide sufficient food for their families and sell surpluses for increased income. Other agricultural projects include establishing a nursery so that farmers can access good quality seedlings with which to plant their fields and organizing training programs so that farmers can learn the latest techniques in agriculture.
With support from Lutheran World Relief , UMCOR is currently implementing a livelihoods program in Batticaloa District that focuses on taking a longer term approach, building the capacity of communities for sustainable economic and livelihood development. Through this program UMCOR provides individual and group training along with inputs, which must be partially repaid to other community members, thus multiplying the benefits of the assistance while building a greater sense of individual ownership and responsibility.
Community & Social Development
UMCOR supports the organizational and technical development of the Methodist Church of UMCOR has supported the organizational and technical development of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka to address the needs of tsunami and conflict affected populations in Sri Lanka. From 2005-2009 UMCOR Sri Lanka worked closely with the MCSL and Methodist Relief and Development Service, MCSL’s relief agency, to enhance the professional knowledge and skills of church staff to provide emergency relief and support the recovery of disaster affected communities. Specific activities included; trainings on program planning, monitoring, and evaluation; skills building through joint implementation of programs with UMCOR Sri Lanka; facilitating the development of a strategic plan; providing networking opportunities with other humanitarian aid and ecumenical organizations to promote inter-organizational learning on issues related to relief and development; and supporting the establishment of a core facilitating team within the church that can implement people centered relief and development activities.
Partners in Our Work
UMCOR Sri Lanka works with a variety of partners to make our work possible. In addition to the private funds we receive through the United Methodist Church we also receive support from the following:
- International Organization for Migration
- Lutheran World Relief
- US Agency for International Development,Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance