April 23 2009
SOS Children's Villages ready to take in refugee children in Sri Lanka
23/04/2009 - The thousands of refugees now fleeing their homes in the north east of the island include many children who have lost one or both parents or have become separated from their families. SOS Children's Villages is currently holding talks with the Sri Lankan authorities to see how these children can be helped, and temporary shelter has been identified as a priority requirement.
It is impossible to keep track of developments in the area of the fighting, where the situation is constantly changing. It is also impossible for the teams of the various UN agencies and NGOs to enter the area to provide direct help. Among other things, it is government policy to ensure that the NGOs' workers are not caught up in fighting as the many other civilians have been.
Children are once again being forced to flee - Photo: Sebastian Posingis
In the meantime the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) and the armed forces, who are responsible for bringing aid to the refugees, have contacted SOS Children's Villages Sri Lanka with a request for humanitarian aid. The talks are now centred on the question of how and where provisional shelter can be provided. The options include the temporary admission of refugee children to the SOS Children's Village facilities in Nuwara-Eliya and Batticaloa or other suitable accommodation in other safe locations.
At the present time there are no reliable statistics on the number of children among the refugees fleeing the fighting in the north east of the country. The figure quoted last week was 3,500 to 4,000 children, including many who have lost one or both parents or have become separated from their families. That figure was released by various news agencies but the number may have dropped or increased still further in the meantime.
All SOS Children's Village facilities and programmes in Sri Lanka are situated at a safe distance from the conflict zone, which now comprises a relatively small area.
Facts and figures on SOS Children's Villages Sri Lanka
- Active in the country since 1980
- 34 facilities and programmes for about 5,000 people, including over 500 children in five SOS Children's Villages and more than 1,600 children and families as part of family strengthening programmes.
- SOS Children's Villages is active in the field of education; it runs kindergartens and day-care centres and offers family strengthening programmes for women and families in co-operation with the local communities as well as social counselling services and health care.
- First activities started in one of the country's crisis areas in 2003 (an SOS Social Centre catering mainly for war widows and a kindergarten in Batticaloa on the north-east coast).
- Major emergency relief programme launched after the Tsunami disaster at the end of 2004: relief aid packages, temporary accommodation and start-up assistance; almost 1,000 houses built; reconstruction of a state school for 1,500 pupils, which opened at the beginning of 2009; two SOS Social Centres and twelve multipurpose centres.