Making the difference in Sri Lanka: rebuilding the lives and hopes of communities affected by disasters

Published: 29 January 2011

The president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Tadateru Konoé, leader of the world’s largest humanitarian network, visited Sri Lanka between 26 and 29 January.

Hosted by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, Mr Konoé held interviews with ministers, senior officials, the director general and members of the governing board of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society , as well as chairpersons from branches.

“I feel great satisfaction and admiration at the commitment and courage of the Sri Lanka Red Cross in reorganizing itself, and reshaping its structure and policies to increasing efficiency to better respond to emergencies, develop risk reduction programmes and, ultimately, better serve people in need,” said Mr Konoé.

Mr Konoé visited a village close to Kilinochchi where families were resettled at the end of the civil war. “I can feel your pain and despair, and you can count on our constant support to help you overcome hardship,” he said during a poignant ceremony. The IFRC – together with the German Red Cross, the Sri Lanka Red Cross and ICRC – runs a post-conflict recovery programme in this region to rebuild communities, building up to 2,000 houses with water and sanitation facilities, and access to healthcare and livelihoods.

The IFRC’s president also visited the region that was severely affected by floods four weeks ago. “What I saw there is huge devastation and loss. We are very concerned about the impact these floods have had on the lives of thousands of families. We have a moral obligation to improve their lives and rebuild their hope.”

The IFRC and the Sri Lanka Red Cross have launched an appeal for 4.62 million Swiss francs (4.83 million US dollars or 3.55 million euros) to provide continued emergency aid as well as longer-term recovery assistance to over 75,000 people over the next 12 months.

“Our role is not only to respond to emergency needs. We also need to invest in full recovery and risk reduction programmes,” said Mr Konoé. “The main lessons learnt from the tsunami operation are that there is no sustainability without long-term commitment. And there is no sustainability without engaging communities in the implementation of recovery programmes. Not only do we need to be accountable to them, we need to work with them in the same way we are accountable to and work with our partners.”

Mr Konoé met Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse, the minister for economic development, as well as representatives from the Asian Development Bank. During discussions with the head of state, President Mahinda Rajapakse thanked Mr Konoé and the IFRC for their tremendous support, particularly during the tsunami recovery operation and during other disasters.

Mr Konoé concluded: “A common understanding is growing as to how to respond efficiently to disasters – before, during and after. The IFRC is recognized as providing a community perspective, using community-based approaches and solutions that are designed by communities to better meet their needs. The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and its 6,500 volunteers have a pivotal role in making an effective and lasting difference. I trust that together we’ll pave the way for a better future for the people who need us the most in this country.”

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

in Sri Lanka
Mahieash Johnney, Communications and information manager, Tel: +94 77 350 2156,

in India
Paula Alvarado, Regional communications manager, Tel: +91 98 1864 4724,

in Geneva, Switzerland
Pierre Kremer, Head of communication, Tel: +41 79 226 4832,