VAVUNIYA, 17 August 2009 (IRIN) - Heavy rains exacerbated poor conditions for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) in northern Sri Lanka over the weekend.
“We’re not prepared for this. I’m afraid things are going to get much worse,” one international medical officer told IRIN in Vavuniya on 17 August, citing concerns over diarrhoea, dysentery and other waterborne diseases.
“From an epidemiological point of view, this is a public health disaster waiting to happen.”
More than 280,000 people live in 30 government camps in Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna and Trincomalee districts after fleeing fighting between government forces and the now defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May.
Of these, 246,000 are in 14 heavily guarded camps in Vavuniya, mostly in Menik Farm, a sprawling 809ha site divided into six zones about 50km outside Vavuniya, which quickly became a sea of mud and misery when the rains struck.
“When the [vegetation] was cleared for the camp, little attention was paid to how water might flow in and out of the area,” one resident said.
According to camp authorities, Zone 1 and 4 were the worst affected. Of some 37,000 residents in Zone 4, more than half were badly affected, with tents designed for five and now housing 12 inundated.
Mud and misery
“Within 20 minutes the whole area was flooded. Every tent was affected,” said Ganeshan Sivasundram, 38, from Kanagapuram Village in Kilinochchi District outside his flooded tent in Zone 4. “How are we supposed to sleep like this?”
“Everything is wet,” Singaratnam Ruban, 41, from Jeyapuram Village in Kilinochchi District, who has lived in the camp since March with his family, complained.
In Zone 1, where residents are living in semi-permanent sheds, toilets quickly overflowed.
“All the toilets are flooded. Human excrement is floating everywhere,” said Maniam Yogapragash, 33, a resident.
“Menik Farm is well named. The place is complete chaos,” one international aid worker who also asked not to be identified, told IRIN. “If you think this is bad, the monsoon rains will be 50 times worse,” he said.
Monsoon rains on this part of the island are expected in September and generally last two to three months, making the weekend’s flooding seem like “a walk in the park”, residents say.
Source : IRIN
Flash floods were experienced in several areas of Vavuniya District and in Menik Farm due to heavy rains over the weekend. Zone 4 in Menik Farm is the most seriously affected with initial estimates of up to 1,925 shelters being damaged or destroyed.
Source : Glide number