Nature of emergency
Heavy rainfall and severe floods causing displacement and damage to livelihoods and assets.
The 12 districts of Batticaloa, Anuradhapura, Monaragala, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Trincomalee, Ratnapura, Matara, Kilinochchi, Polonnaruwa, Mullaitivu and Ampara are flood affected. The majority of flood affected persons are in the Eastern Province and the eastern district of Batticaloa is the most badly hit.
Sri Lanka started to experience very heavy precipitation in mid-November. The heavy downpour, at times coupled with thunder storms, resulted in land slides and widespread flooding in most areas of the island. Diverging from normal seasonal patterns, rainfall re-intensified in early December, causing flooding, limiting physical accessibility, damaging crops, causing displacement and in other ways affecting the lives and livelihoods of 165,000 persons. The impact was felt particularly hard in thenorth of the country. The current crisis started in late December when a third wave of severe flooding was brought about from continuous rains centred on the east and north of the country. As of 30 December rain is still falling in Batticaloa and some forecasts predict continued rainfall throughout the first week of January.
Estimates from the National Disaster Management Centre on 1 January 2011 put the number of flood affected persons at approximately 420,000. Over 90 percent of the flood affected persons are in Batticaloa district in the Eastern Province, an area stilrecovering from the long-standing conflict between the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The flooding has caused displacement of large populations in flood affected areas. Only in Batticaloa, 74 camps for displaced persons, so called Welfare Centers, have been established and are as of 1 January hosting 20,181. These families, as well as camp populations in Kilinochchi and Trincomalee districts, are receiving cooked meals from government agencies. However, the government’s capacity to sustain feeding operations to camps for more than a few days is unknown. Also of great humanitarian concern are those displaced to host families inside or outside of their places of residence. Humanitarian assistance to these households is presently very limited, with the government being unable to provide essential supplies. The extent of such unregistered displacement is difficult to estimate exactly, especially as some geographical areas remain inaccessible to assessment teams, but is believe to be approximately 63,000 persons only in Batticaloa. Estimates of unregistered displacement is not available from other districts but is not believed to be much lower than in Batticaloa.
The floods coincide with the main agricultural season. Rice, the predominate crop, is sensitive to flooding and damage to the grain is sustained after merely a few days of being submerged under water. Flooding of thousands of acres of crops has already been reported and further crop damage is expected. Re-planting is believed to be required, although it is too early to know the full extent of re-planting needs. The capacity of farmers to re-plant is unknown but feared weak. The harvest of the main agricultural season in March and April, already downgraded by approximately 5 percent due to previous flooding in early to mid-December, could be further affected.
The impact on agricultural livelihoods is compounded by damage to irrigation infrastructure caused by the flooding. Walls of irrigation water reservoirs have collapsed in some areas, causing additional flooding and possibly weakening the prospects of successful irrigation in the remainder of the agricultural season. In some districts authorities have been forced to open reservoir sluice gates to diminish water levels, causing additional flooding downstream.
Flood damage to the road network has caused physical access to deteriorate. Several roads are passable only in off-road vehicles and in other areas villages are reachable only by boat.
Detailed, reliable and updated information about how the floods are impacting household food security is scarce. Such information is forthcoming from an ongoing initial investigation being undertaken by WFP. Serious concern is raised about the risk of deterioration in sanitary conditions, access to safe water and the risk of outbreak of deceases, particularly dengue fever.