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Colombo, 15 Feb 11

A new home going up in Sri Lank’s once troubled northern war zone. Photo © UN-HABITAT

UN-HABITAT in Sri Lanka has just launched USD 28 million housing programme to support internally displaced war survivors in the north of the country.

Thanks to funding from the European Union, AusAid, and Swiss Development Corporation, the agency will help construct 4,400 new homes in the north of the country where more than 230,000 people were forced to flee and confined to a single camp.

UN-HABITAT was been invited by the Sri Lankan Government Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province to assist the permanent shelter and infrastructure recovery in the north.

Permanent housing is the ‘foundation’ for them to rebuild their lives and UN-HABITAT has started an “owner-driven” housing programme whereby the families themselves have the main say and role in building their new homes under a programme expected to take at least two-and-a-half years.

Families are at last resettling in their original places of residence following the conclusion of the 30-year conflict in May 2009. More than 50 villages will be assisted in this programme for the full reconstruction of 2,200 destroyed houses, and the major repair of a further 2,200 damaged homes.

Sri Lanka is faced with an opportunity for long term peace and sustainable development, and timely assistance in re-establishing these families in sustainable settlements through permanent reconstruction of their houses will provide them with a sense of safety, security and dignity.

Building on its experience in providing over 10,000 new homes for the survivors of the 2004 tsunami, UN-HABITAT seeks to “empower” the beneficiaries to be in charge of their own recovery process.

Technical assistance and guidance for reconstruction will be provided to all beneficiaries by field-based UN-HABITAT teams. Vulnerable groups such as women headed households and physically disabled will be given priority assistance in order to ensure their safety and welfare. Due to destruction of documents during the conflict, many families struggle to prove their ownership of land and it is anticipated over 1,000 families will benefit from assistance to establish security of tenure.

More than 600 youths from the beneficiary communities will receive construction skills training with technical support under a Swiss Development Corporation initiative

Acknowledging the generous financial contribution from the EU, AusAID and SDC, UN-HABITAT said it comes at a critical moment in the recovery process in northern Sri Lanka.

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