Colombo, June 11, 2009
—Impending monsoon rains and inadequate sanitation in displacement camps will put tens of thousands of people at risk from disease in northern Sri Lanka within the next two weeks, aid agency World Vision warned today.
“We are very worried about the outbreak of diseases,” said Suresh Bartlett, World Vision's national director in Sri Lanka. “When the rains come in two weeks or so I can’t imagine what conditions will be like due to the lack of any proper drainage and toilet system.”
The sanitation facilities in the largest camps where most of the displaced are living are woefully inadequate and at least 11,500 more latrines are needed in the camps to comply with international minimum standards. With the monsoon rains expected to arrive within the next two weeks, at least 2,500 are needed immediately to meet even the most basic needs and to prevent a potential health crisis.
Unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation facilities give rise to waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera as well as malaria and dengue fever, according to World Vision health experts. Most fatalities occur in young children.
“Camps further north in Jaffna have already experienced rains and there we have seen people trying to keep their things dry in overturned buckets and hanging their babies in saris to keep them off the ground and out of flood waters, “ said Bartlett.
Although World Vision has supplied 5 million liters of water within the past six weeks, provided shelter, distributed 100,000 packs of cooked food and 60 MT of food to the communal kitchens, it is now severely short of funds needed to continue its response. The agency needs an additional $3 million to support a scaled up response in the camps.
“I urge the international community to give freely,” said Bartlett. “There are so many crises in the world at this time, but the needs of those who have survived the conflict are extreme. After surviving such a violent conflict, it would be extremely unfortunate for the children and babies to now succumb to disease.”
Bartlett said there were a number of needs in the camps, including access to clean water, food and shelter but added that the sanitation needs were among the greatest.World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. We serve the world’s poor regardless of a person’s religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.