Transforming 21,125 houses to homes

Publié: 30 décembre 2015 7:56 CET

By Mahieash Johnney, IFRC @Mahieash

“My children's future will be better than mine,” said Fathima Siyana, a beneficiary of the Red Cross Post Conflict Recovery Programme.

In 2010, following the end of the civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) began a housing project in the northern part of Sri Lanka. The project aimed to support the most vulnerable people who could finally return to their homeland. Since the programme began, the Red Cross has been providing shelter and livelihood support through cash grants and technical support.

The programme focuses on individuals like Fathima, a mother of three boys and two girls. She had lost her home and her husband during the conflict, and was forced to live in a temporary camp with her family for over twenty years.

“The concept of a home was an illusion to us. We never thought this conflict would come to an end and that we would stop running from one place to another,” Fathima said. During the war, Fathima and her family moved from camp to camp, unable to return home as the area she lived in had transformed into a battle zone. “However, even when the conflict finally ended, our problems didn’t,” she added. “Finding a better life was yet another battle. Then we met the Red Cross.”

Fathima was selected through a beneficiary selection criteria, and through the programme was provided with financial support, funded by the Government of India, to build a permanent home for her family. The programme allows beneficiaries to be the decision makers on the reconstruction of their homes.

“The Red Cross was one of the few organizations that jumped at the opportunity to aid the refugees as soon as the conflict ended,” said Jagath Abeysinghe, the President of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society. “Our aim was to provide support to as many people as we can. Initially we were only able to provide houses to over 3000 families, but with support from the Government of India we were able to aid over 21,000 families.”

One of the many challenges the programme faced was the lack of funds and donors who were willing to contribute to the programme. However along with the Government of India, many partner National Societies like the Australian Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, Irish Red Cross, Korean Red Cross, Monaco Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross, German Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, Hong Kong Branch of Red Cross Society of China, Taiwan Red Cross Organization, UAE Red Crescent and Spanish Red Cross, provided the support needed to get the project off the ground.

Another area of focus for the Red Cross was to provide livelihood support to the beneficiaries to help them find a source of income. Additional cash grants were given to selected beneficiaries who wanted to engage in livelihood activities like home gardening, animal husbandry and weaving.

“We have always been an organization that provides the complete package to the people we work with,” said Igor Dmitryuk, Head of the IFRC Delegation in Sri Lanka. “Through our vast experience, we have always understood that giving beneficiaries a home isn’t enough – Other elements, like helping them boost their livelihoods, are required to ensure that they will recover better following a disaster.”