Episcopal Relief & Development Supports Flood Relief in Sri Lanka

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting its Sri Lankan partner, the Anglican Diocese of Colombo, in providing food and shelter on diocesan grounds for people who have been displaced by two successive waves of flooding. The January floods, which were the worst ever to hit the country, killed 43 people and affected over a million. More than 300,000 people took refuge in shelters and with relatives. The February flooding has been even worse, affecting an estimated 1.2 million people, of whom many had already suffered losses the previous month. The magnitude of the damage caused by these floods is exceeded only by that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

In its initial response, the Diocese of Colombo provided shelter and cooked meals of rice and dhal to over 6,000 people. Because they were already providing services in communities affected by the January floods, they were able to quickly respond to the increased need for help after the February storms. In places where acres of rice paddies were destroyed by flood waters, the work of the Church to provide food is critical. An estimated 21 to 36 percent of crops have been lost nationally; in heavily affected areas like Batticaloa, the estimates are 80 to 95 percent.

“Rice is the staple food of Sri Lanka,” said Nagulan Nesiah, Program Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development. “So it is devastating when such a large proportion of the rice crop has been lost. There are stores of rice from the 2010 harvest, but prices are too high for many people to afford, especially people who lost homes and livelihoods in the floods. The Diocese of Colombo is responding by providing essential help to those who need it most.”

Episcopal Relief & Development has been working with the Diocese of Colombo since 2003. One aspect of the partnership focuses on building the capacity of the diocese to manage disaster preparedness and response. This goal is being accomplished with the assistance of the agency’s technical resource partner, the Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA).

“The success of these capacity-building efforts is now being tested in diocesan flood response activities,” Nesiah said. “We are pleased that the parish communities who have received disaster response training are demonstrating their skills with a proactive and engaged response to this crisis. We will work with our church partners to replicate these efforts in other regions.”

Sri Lanka has suffered many disasters in recent years, both natural and otherwise. In its continuing response to the 2004 tsunami, Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting the replanting of protective mangrove trees along the coastline through the Centre for Environmental Justice. The agency is also working with the Ecumenical Church Loan Fund to provide start-up funds for women’s self-help groups to offer micro-finance loans in six tsunami-affected communities. In addition, Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting the Diocese of Colombo’s response to Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war, which ended in 2009. The diocese’s Centre for Conflict Analysis and Reconciliation, which serves mainly women and youth, provides psychosocial care to victims of the war and offers mediation services to aid in reconciliation and community rehabilitation.

“We are committed to our partnership with the Diocese of Colombo,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Vice President for Programs. “They have shown remarkable resilience and steadfastness in the face of disaster after disaster, and we will continue to support them as they rebuild their communities.”

To support Episcopal Relief & Development’s work, please visit www.episcopal-relief.org or call 1.800.334.7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief & Development rebuilds after disasters and empowers people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.