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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Sri Lanka


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Sri Lanka

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Provide protection and relief assistance to internally displaced persons through Open Relief Centres and promote durable solutions for them by offering community-based micro-projects and income-generation activities which provide an alternative to refugee flight.

Who we help

More than 400,000 internally displaced persons, returnees from India and others affected by population displacement in northern Sri Lanka.

Our requirements

US$ 7,518,510

Our offices

Colombo, Jaffna, Mallavi, Madhu, Trincomalee, Vavuniya.

Our partners

Resettlement and Rehabilitation Authority of the North (RRAN), Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam), CARE International (CARE), Médecins Sans Frontières - France (MSF-F), MEMISA, ZOA Refugee Care Netherlands (ZOA), World University Services of Canada (WUSC), Campaign for Development and Solidarity (FORUT), Action Contre la Faim (AICF), Rural Development Foundation (RDF), Sewa Lanka Foundation (SLF), Lanka Jatika Sarvodaya Shamadana Sangamaya (SARVODAYA), Sri Lanka Red Cross Society - Trincomalee Branch (SLRCS-TCO).


UNHCR has worked in Sri Lanka since 1987, assisting the return of refugees from India and their reintegration in their places of origin. Between 1987 and 1991 the agency assisted more than 50,000 returnees; another 50,000 persons returned between 1992 and 1995. The resumption of hostilities between the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan authorities in 1995 curtailed further repatriation from India and resulted in repeated displacements of large numbers of civilians within Sri Lanka. In areas where UNHCR was already working with returnees, assistance and protection was extended to internally displaced persons.

Current Situation

According to the Government of Sri Lanka, some 800,000 persons are internally displaced (as of April 1998) as a result of the ongoing conflict. More than 40 per cent of these people live in the Jaffna Peninsula. Another 40 per cent live in the districts of Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, and Vavuniya bordering areas affected by the conflict. The remaining internally displaced persons, numbering more than 147,000, are spread across the districts of Anuradhapura, Puttalam, Trincomalee and other areas.

As the conflict shifted from the Jaffna Peninsula to the Vanni region in mid-1996, large numbers of internally displaced persons began returning to Jaffna either with government assistance or on their own. During 1997, more than 72,000 persons who had been displaced in the Vanni region, as well as a much larger number of persons displaced within the Jaffna Peninsula, returned to their places of origin in Jaffna. Significant numbers of internally displaced persons also left the Vanni region and moved south to safer areas in the Vavuniya and Mannar districts. The deteriorating security situation in the Vanni also led to new refugee flight to India, beginning in mid-1996. As of June 1998, more than 13,000 refugees had arrived in southern India.


UNHCR promotes durable solutions for internally displaced persons by providing infrastructure support to host communities and income-generation activities to those displaced and by reinforcing local government and NGO capacities. By supporting community-based activities, the agency also helps stabilize populations.


Protection and assistance activities in Sri Lanka are complementary. As it conducts assistance programmes in affected areas, UNHCR closely monitors internally displaced persons and works with concerned authorities to promote solutions to their problems. Four UNHCR field offices are located in northern Sri Lanka (Jaffna, Madhu, Mallavi and Vavuniya), one field office is in the east at Trincomalee, and the Branch Office in Colombo coordinates activities in the field. Since the field offices at Madhu and Mallavi are located in the conflict zone, UNHCR is in a unique position to liaise with both the Sri Lankan local authorities and with the LTTE. Although the Government has assumed responsibility for internally displaced persons throughout the country, limited access to those within the affected areas means that protection and assistance is not guaranteed. UNHCR's assistance is thus crucial in areas where the Government is unable to fulfil its role. Open Relief Centres (ORCs) are maintained in the areas of conflict to provide international protection and emergency relief to internally displaced persons. The civilian character of these centres is respected thanks to an informal understanding among UNHCR, the Government and the LTTE.


Open Relief Centres

Four Open Relief Centres/Sub-Centres (located at Madhu, Palampiddy, Mullikulam and Chanavayalankadu in Mannar District) accommodate some 20,000 internally displaced persons. Several thousands of residents have lived in the Madhu and Palampiddy centres since the early 1990s after their return from India. They are unwilling to return to their places of origin because of the lack of security there. The other Open Relief Centres were established to handle more recent population displacements. During 1999, UNHCR will support the ORCs - and local communities - by offering relief items to new arrivals and providing medical care, water supplies and sanitation facilities.

Relief Items

It is anticipated that in 1999 some 45,000 persons will receive emergency relief items, including plastic sheets, mats, towels, bed sheets, plastic buckets, plastic plates, mugs/cups, jerry cans, kettles, pans, frying pans, and laundry/toilet soap.

Community-Based Assistance

Some 250 quick impact micro-projects will be launched during 1999 in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Trincomalee and Vavuniya districts. Project include: road construction and repair; the construction and maintenance of wells; upgrading sanitation, health care and educational facilities and community services; crop production; animal husbandry; fisheries; vocational training; and micro-credit schemes. Special micro-projects will be launched to address the needs of single parent- and female-headed families, children, the disabled and low-income groups. More than 400,000 persons, including both internally displaced persons and local residents, are expected to benefit from these activities.

Durable solutions through reintegration

In 1998, UNHCR, together with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Food Programme, signed a letter of intent with the Sri Lankan authorities to help 10,000 families settle in Jaffna. During the first half of 1998, some 70 new micro-projects were launched in Jaffna to promote the reintegration of internally displaced persons. UNHCR encourages local NGOs to become implementing partners for these activities.


The Selection Review Board, which includes representatives from the Government, UNHCR and implementing partners, reviews selected projects and formulates policy. The micro-project programme is overseen through regular meetings of the District Review Boards in all concerned districts. District Steering Committee meetings are also held regularly to monitor project implementation.

Close coordination among the concerned United Nations agencies in humanitarian assistance has been developed in the framework of the United Nations Emergency Task Force (UNETF), established in 1995. And UNHCR works closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other agencies to ensure activities complement, rather than overlap, each other.


Continued hostilities between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE make the planning and implementation of activities extremely complex. Freedom of movement of internally displaced persons to their areas of their origin and within the conflict areas remains a constant concern. In the Jaffna Peninsula, security concerns have prevented local NGOs from becoming implementing partners; that, in turn, has resulted in an over-reliance on local authorities. Funding constraints at the beginning of 1998 also adversely affected programme implementation. As a result of these considerations, and a strengthened US dollar exchange rate, the 1999 funding target for the Special Operation in Sri Lanka has been reduced from the 1998 target by $1.8 million.

Budget US$

The budget includes costs in Sri Lanka, India and at Headquarters.

ActivitiesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support157,753
Water Supply355,631
Shelter/Other Infrastructures192,701
Community Services170,059
Crop Production475,898
Livestock/Animal Husbandry78,860
Agency Operational Support661,800
Programme Delivery Costs*2,332,181
Administrative Support Costs896,029

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.