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* UN assures Sri Lanka assistance for drought relief
Mon, Jan 16, 2017, 10:12 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 16, Colombo: Sri Lanka faced with prolonged drought is seeking international assistance to provide relief to the affected people, especially farmers, and President Maithripala Sirisena Monday met with the top officials of international agencies to discuss relief measures.

Top level UN officials, including, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Una McCauley, the World Food Programme's (WFP) Representative and Country Director for Sri Lanka, Brenda Barton and Chief Technical Advisor at FAO Emelda Berejena, called on President Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat today to discuss issues pertaining to the drought and the relief organizations.

The UN officials assured the President that the UN and its affiliated bodies would take a serious note on the impending drought situation in Sri Lanka and extend fullest cooperation to the Presidential Task Force to provide drought relief.

President Sirisena Friday appointed a special task force with the participation of all related institutions to make preparations to face the severe drought prevailing in the country.

The UN officials thanked the President for establishing the Task Force to monitor and supervise the drought relief and assured that they would take every step to bring this impending calamity to the notice of the international community and seek their assistance.

The UN Country Director said as the first step the UN could provide expertise in monitoring, evaluation and communication regarding the drought situation.

WFP representative said that her organization could extend the food or cash for work program to provide employment to rural people who were denied work because of drought. She said that food/cash for work program is already in operation in several districts. She said that such assurance of income to people would prevent them from indebtedness as there are instances of private money lenders providing the poor people with loans on exorbitant interest rates. She added that the people should be encouraged to take loans from government agencies that provide soft loans.

The UN officials said that one of the main problems of the drought would be the drinking water shortage and that would lead to health issues in the long run. They also discussed the issue of finding an adequate number of bowsers to supply water to drought affected areas.

Government's decision to seek international assistance has been prompted by concerns that the drinking water reservoirs at Labugama and Kalatuwawa would dry up completely, if inter-monsoonal rains are not experienced within the next three months.

President thanked the UN officials for their concern over the drought situation and invited them to attend the Task Force meetings every week to further monitor the situation.

The next group of returning #SriLanka/n refugees from India will arrive home on 23 January 2017. Forty persons belonging to 14 families are expected to return with the support of UNHCR.


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