August 27 2009

SOS Children's Villages provides shelter for unaccompanied children in northern Sri Lanka

27/08/09 - An SOS Children's Villages' temporary care project has been providing shelter for 161 unaccompanied children in Chettikulum in war-ravaged northern Sri Lanka since 19 August.

SOS Archive
Minister Jayasena and other dinitaries were lead into the village by the children - Photo: SOS Archive

The Minister of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment, Ms Sumedha G. Jayasena, officially opened the temporary care centre in the presence of numerous dignitaries and guests of honour. Sharing some of her memories of the centre, Divakar Ratnadurai of SOS Children's Villages Sri Lanka fondly recalled groups of children pointing and gazing in excitement as the camp's first playground was set up.


SOS Archive
Here, the children receive the attention that many of them have been lacking for a long time - Photo: SOS Archive

The main aim is to provide an environment in which children feel safe and can grow without the fear of the conflict that is still raging in the country. The 71 boys and 90 girls receive extensive care, nutrition and psychological therapy to help them to deal with their traumatic experiences. Government medical teams will visit the facility and the children will be taught how to lead a healthy life.

But work does not end there, far from it: "Every effort is being made to reunite the children with their families. The Department of Probation and Child Care Services is our partner in this very difficult task," said Divakar Ratnadurai.
If, within a certain timeframe, the family's situation cannot be clarified and family reunification is not (yet) possible, the children will be temporarily housed at SOS Children's Village Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is in a region inhabited by Tamils, which would facilitate linguistic and cultural integration. If necessary, an additional building could be rented to provide accommodation for orphans and children without the protection of their family.

As a result of the heavy rains that have been causing flooding in nearby camps, large numbers of displaced people fled to the SOS Children's Village facility that had not yet been opened and took refuge there. However, when the children who were to inhabit the facilities arrived, all returned to their camps.

Nearly 300,000 people have been displaced by the fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels are currently living in government-run "welfare villages".