Following two waves of severe flooding in Sri Lanka, Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the Anglican Diocese of Colombo to provide food and shelter on diocesan grounds for the thousands of people who have been displaced.
In January, the worst floods ever to hit the country killed 43 people and forced more than 300,000 to take refuge in shelters and with relatives. The February flooding has been even worse, affecting an estimated 1.2 million people, many of whom had already suffered losses the previous month, according to a press release from Episcopal Relief & Development.
"The magnitude of the damage caused by these floods is exceeded only by that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami," the release said.
"In its initial response, the Diocese of Colombo provided shelter and cooked meals of rice and dhal to more than 6,000 people," the release said. "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, according to the release. "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, with one focus on building the capacity of the diocese to manage disaster preparedness and response.
"The success of these capacity-building efforts is now being tested in diocesan flood response activities," Nesiah said in the release. "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."
Episcopal Relief & Development continues to support the Diocese of Colombo in its response to Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war, which ended in 2009.
"We are committed to our partnership with the Diocese of Colombo," said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development's vice president for programs, according to the release. "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, visit www.er-d.org or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.