Red Cross collaboration with Government of India helps families build or repair homes

Published: 18 July 2012 10:47 CET

By Mahieash Johnney in Colombo, Sri Lanka

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in partnership with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society signed an agreement with the Government of India to reach out to more families affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The project involves the construction or repair of 43,000 housing units in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. It aims to provide assistance to the most vulnerable families, selected through a transparent process based on a clear criteria. The construction and repair of the houses will be undertaken by the beneficiaries themselves through an owner-driven approach, which encourages people to take the lead in rebuilding their own homes, with the Red Cross providing technical assistance and support.

The agreement between the IFRC and the Government of India was signed last Friday in Colombo and was witnessed by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Development, Mr Basil Rajapakse, and the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Mr Ashok K. Kantha.

“This is a massive project that is undertaken by the Government of India to help the people of Sri Lanka who have suffered years of war and displacement,” says Bob McKerrow, the IFRC’s head of office in Sri Lanka.

“The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society has been at the forefront of providing relief and reconstruction support to the most vulnerable in Sri Lanka and with this generous support from the Government of India, we will be able to reach out to more people.”

The construction of 43,000 houses for resettlement and rehabilitation of internally displaced people in the northern and eastern provinces is part of the Indian government’s commitment to build 50,000 houses, which was announced by the Prime Minister of India, H.E. Dr. Manmohan Singh during the state visit of the President of Sri Lanka,  H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in June 2010.

The National Society itself is supporting the construction of 16,800 houses. Selected beneficiaries will receive 550,000 Sri Lankan rupees (4,050 Swiss francs/4,111 US dollars) each to build their house, while a grant of 250,000 Sri Lankan rupees (1,900 Swiss francs/1,870 US dollars) will be distributed to beneficiaries whose homes need repairing.

Marimuththu Puwathi, from Karainagar, Jaffna, is one of the many affected by the former conflict. Her husband had died during the war, and she is living with her daughter in a makeshift shelter, which offers flimsy protection from the elements.  Life has been hard on her but she is determined to rebuild. Marimuththu and her daughter, who works in an onion farm in Jaffna several kilometers away, have completed the foundation of a house which they built with funding from the Red Cross. You can see more of their story in the video above.