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news | September 30, 2016 | Sri Lanka | Emergency

Rebuilding livelihoods after devastating floods in Sri Lanka

In November 2015, parts of the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka were severely affected by floods. Many families were in dire need of financial support to rebuild their lives.

The daily struggles of a family after the disaster

Rohini is a 30-year-old woman who lives with her husband and two children in a small village in Maritimepattu DS division, Mullaitivu District. She is living in a temporary shelter that was set up on her own land. Her husband, who has divided his time between inland fishing on the one hand, and manual labour activities on the other, is the breadwinner, while Rohini is a housewife.

Rohini’s family was severely affected by the floods, which caused the death of their new-born. Their entire house was destroyed during the flood, and they found temporary refuge in an evacuation centre set up by the government, where they stayed for 14 days. When they returned home, they were provided with dry food rations for one week, but they ran out of food soon after that. On top of that, Rohini’s household did not have any source of income; her husband’s fishing activity was facing serious difficulties as he had lost his fishing nets, and opportunities in manual labour drastically diminished because of the floods. As a result, they struggled to make a living and feed their children. Until Rohini and her family were selected by government officials to receive a cash grant from ACTED to cover their immediate needs in food and livelihoods.

Cash grants to rebuild lives

Households deemed to be the most vulnerable in terms of food security were provided with unconditional cash grants to cover their immediate needs, through an ECHO-funded project implemented in partnership with Handicap International and Oxfam. Therefore, Rohini received two monthly instalments of LKR 8,400 (about € 52)which she used to purchase food items such as rice, dhal (dried legumes) and wheat flour, and to start poultry rearing after she bought five egg-laying chickens. She is hoping to use eggs for their own consumption, but also to earn money by selling them, until her husband can practice inland fishing again. In addition, thanks to these cash instalments, her husband was able to buy new fishing nets.

Referring beneficiaries to social schemes for improving lives

Yet, cash transfer is only a part of the global solution to reinforce vulnerable households' capacities to cope with recurrent flood consequences. Many beneficiary households, despite being eligible to governmental social schemes, did not have access to these as they were not aware of the existence of these schemes or of their eligibility. Therefore, in addition to cash support, Rohini’s family was among the 288 households in Mullaitivu District that were referred to the governmental housing programme. As her family was deemed eligible for this housing scheme, Rohini and her husband have started to build a new house, which they hope to finish before the next rainy season.

3,628 individuals (2,069 women and 1,559 men) from 1,200 households across Batticaloa, Killinochchi and Mullaitivu districts were provided with two monthly cash grants of LKR 8,400 each (about € 52).

48% of the total grant amount was spent on food, while 38% was spent on livelihood improvement (procurement of tools, raw materials, etc.)