Saturday, December 10, 2005

War refugees hit hard by continuous rain in Jaffna

Over 350, 000 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in temporary shelters in Jaffna are facing sever difficulties due to the heavy rainfall and strong winds that have hit the region.

Many of the shelters were constructed with material at hand by those who were displaced from their homes during the civil war. ‘We didn’t think we will spend so many years in these huts. Every day we prey to return to our homes’ said a victim.

Although some of people living in shelters are those whose homes were fully destroyed by the indiscriminate bombing campaigns of the Sri Lanka Air Force, a majority are actually people with habitable homes.

Even after three years of peace process, over 300 000 of the IDPs can’t return to their homes because the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has designated 32% of Jaffna as being High Security Zone which is off limits to civilians.

Most of the refugees say that they would have lost their lives to one of the many diseases that spread across these shelters if it weren’t for the excellent work being carried out by the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) and other local Non-Governmental Organisations.

The government provides the High Security Zone refugees with rupees 750 (US$ 7.50) a month in compensation. Many residents say that the compensation is a joke. ‘The Army occupies our homes, businesses, schools, temples, churches, hospitals and acres of farmland. All we get is return is 750 rupees a month. It is a total joke.’

Meanwhile the government has allocated less than US$ 3 per flood affected person for relief efforts. This comes on the back of a budget that allocated over US$ 800 million for defence in 2006 alone.

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