Politics & Current Affairs

Children highly vulnerable in Sri Lanka flood and landslide disaster: UN

United Nations have warned that children displaced by the current flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka are highly vulnerable to abuse.

In two reports released on 22 May, top UN bodies have called to provide protection and psychosocial support for children living in camps ‘where no formal registration process exists’.

Expressing fear about children settled without proper camp arrangement, UN agencies have urged that the security of children should be given top priority.

“Protection of children should be given high priority considering camp setting without any partition arrangement and prevalence for abuse is much higher in the absence of proper camp arrangement,” UNICEF said in its Humanitarian Situation report released a week after a massive landslides buried over 200 houses in Kegalle district, in central Sri Lanka.

Since 5 May the country was hit by a severe tropical storm that caused widespread flooding and landslides in 22 districts.

At least 94 have been killed and over a hundred missing are feared to be buried under the mudslide in Aranayake.

Over quarter a million have been displaced, says the country’s disaster management authorities.

'No formal registration'

UNICEF as well as the UN top body co-ordinating humanitarian assistance has raised concerns about children due to the lack of formal registration within the camps.

“There have been growing concerns on missing, unaccompanied and separated children as currently no formal registration system exists; the number of children displaced and temporarily settled in camps is not known/confirmed yet. Protection of children should be given high priority especially those living in camp settings,” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its Floods and landslides Situation Report released a week after the Aranayake disaster.

“Parents should be extra vigilant on their children protection and children/ parents should be properly educated on this.” said UNICEF.

Effect on education

While the education of tens of thousands of children have been affected directly, many others have been hit indirectly as OCHA says that most of the 376 safe locations in all the 22 affected districts are schools.

“There is a growing concern that some schools might be returned to their education purpose too soon as affected communities are still using them as displacement camps,” says UNICEF.

Both UN agencies have emphasised the need to pay special attention to pregnant and lactating women and children under 5.

“Pregnant and lactating women, and children under five who have been displaced from their homes and are living in temporary accommodation are especially vulnerable to water-borne and communicable diseases,” says OCHA.

Media led relief efforts

Private and state owned  TV channels, political parties and civil organisations have launched campaigns to collect food and relief items from the general public.

However, lack of coordination and professional handling of donations from the public has ‘resulted in difficulties of crowd controlling, effective relief distribution and limited coordination of relief donation’ says UNICEF.

© JDS

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Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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