MAG’s operations in Sri Lanka have been given increased funding to more quickly release safe land for people to return home. Four months after the end of the civil war hundreds of thousands of people are still living in makeshift displacement camps in the north of the country, waiting to leave.
They cannot, however, until their villages and lands have been surveyed for mines, unexploded ordnance or improvised explosive devices – the legacy of the 27-year-long war.
MAG has been working in the north since April but has now stepped up its survey and clearance efforts in the Mannar region, and has moved into the Vavuniya region, so that as soon as it is safe these displaced people can return. Funding from the UK, US and Australian governments have allowed for this expansion in operations.
In addition to three Mine Action Teams working in Vavuniya, where Menik Farm, one of the largest displacement camps is found, MAG now has four more assessment teams working hard to examine the land and mark out any dangerous areas. MAG has also increased its operations in the Mannar region with more technical survey, clearance and community liaison teams.
Llewelyn Jones, Country Programme Manager of MAG Sri Lanka, said: “We don’t know how bad the contamination is in the north of Sri Lanka because nobody has been able to get in to properly survey it since conflict re-ignited in 2006.
“That’s why these assessment teams are so important. We hope they will be able to quickly identify large areas of safe land, and clearly mark out anywhere that is not safe.
“People can then begin to return to the safe areas as soon as possible, and other aid agencies can also get access to safely provide the essential services – like water and health care – that people might need.”
Since MAG moved back into the north of the country in April survey and clearance operations have already paved the way for 70 families to return home to Marathanmadhu, a village in Mannar, where the local school is now reopened.
“We are grateful for the additional funding so that MAG Sri Lanka can keep expanding, and doing whatever we can to get these people home,” added Llewelyn Jones.
Extra funds have been allocated to MAG’s programme in Sri Lanka as follows:
On Thursday 6 August the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) gave MAG £500,000 to fund two survey and assessment teams and two mechanical teams in the Vavuniya region.
The US State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (WRA) gave MAG $1.2million in July to fund a mechanical clearance team and a mine action team in Mannar, as well as two mine action teams in Vavuniya.
The Australian government’s overseas aid programme AusAID gave MAG one million Australian dollars in July to fund two community liaison teams, two technical survey teams and two clearance teams in Mannar.
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7 August 09