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More flooding brings misery to Sri Lanka

In January, parts of northern and eastern Sri Lanka were devastated by floods which affected more than one million people.

Now, only a couple of weeks later, heavy rains have returned. At least 11 people have been killed in the new wave of flooding and over 300,000 forced into temporary shelters. Overall, 1.25 million people are thought to be affected this time.

Oxfam has called the situation “alarming” and said the new floods “could not have occurred at a worse time”. Many Sri Lankans who had returned to their houses after the deluge in January, have now been forced to abandon them once more and seek shelter in camps or public buildings. 18 districts in the eastern, northern, central and north-central provinces have been hit by the new wave of flooding and Oxfam has been distributing basic items such as food and water to around 120,000 people.

The fresh flooding is believed to have caused further damage to buildings, roads and farm land. Oxfam’s Campaign Manager in the country, Thusitha Siriwardana, has spoken of the growing concern over food security in the region, as officials predict over 90 per cent of the rice crop in affected districts is likely to be ruined. Many families are already struggling to obtain food as supplies run low, in a country where there are already widespread concerns about inflation and the rising cost of food.

The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) and the Sri Lankan government have again been distributing emergency food rations to affected areas, though access is a huge problem as huge swathes of land and many roads are under water. The navy and air force have been helping in the relief operations, but with such a huge operation, it is proving hard to cover all communities in need.

Following the January floods, the United Nations issued an emergency appeal for 51 million dollars to help the victims. To date, only 11.6 million dollars has been pledged by the international community. Now, as the fresh floods have brought even wider ruin to crops and caused further deaths among livestock, the need for assistance is going to be even greater. Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs at the UN will visit the country this week and launch a fresh appeal for funds.

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