As war ends, World Vision says four challenges face Sri Lanka



    MISSISSAUGA, ON, May 18 /CNW/ - What next? This is the critical question
for the next phase of the humanitarian response in Sri Lanka as the war with
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) comes to an end, leaving almost a
quarter of a million Tamils in displacement camps, World Vision says.
    "The conventional war may be over but the real challenge now is to foster
an environment where fractured and displaced Tamil communities can heal and
have a real chance at creating a future for themselves and their children,"
said Suresh Bartlett, National Director of World Vision in Sri Lanka.
    The relief, development and advocacy organization has been assisting
those in camps with water, food, shelter, non-food relief items as well as
nutrition, education and psychosocial programs for children. Going forward,
World Vision says there are four challenges that the organization will tackle
in order to put Sri Lanka's children on the road to recovery.

    
    1. Get people back to their original land and homes as quickly as
    possible and then provide them the support they need to rebuild their
    lives. This will need to, in many cases, be accompanied by de-mining,
    infrastructure rebuilding and livelihoods set up(1).

    2. Provide special support for children that address their physical,
    psychosocial, emotional and educational needs. Tens of thousands of
    children have been severely impacted - emotionally, physically and
    mentally. They have endured months of extremely violent close-quarter
    conflict, suffering from a lack of health care and poor access to shelter
    and food. Aid agencies and government ministries need to identify
    children who have suffered trauma and distress and find creative
    solutions to address this special problem(2).

    3. Trust building programs are essential to create an environment of
    peace. Many Tamils who come from the area once controlled by the LTTE may
    never have had Sinhalese neighbours or friends. Likewise those from the
    South may be suspicious of northern Tamils. A large percentage of those
    from Colombo or the South have never been to the conflicted North(3).

    World Vision is planning to promote such programs as well as continuing
    to call on Canada to support the government of Sri Lanka in taking
    immediate steps to outline a durable solution and plan that addresses the
    root causes of the conflict, that works to empower communities and local
    governance, and that helps restore basic services and critical
    infrastructure.

    4. Millions of aid dollars needed. Private donations from generous
    Canadians go a long way to help this crisis, but the international
    community, donors and banks also need to give or lend millions of dollars
    to fund the return, recovery and rehabilitation phases. None of these
    programs is possible without the commitment from people around the world
    to support recovery efforts. But without this support the country may not
    be able to make a real go at winning the peace, so losing out on a vital
    opportunity to bring peace(4).

    World Vision is accepting donations to help those affected by the
conflict. Those wishing to help can visit WorldVision.ca or call
1-800-268-5528.

    Notes:

    (1) Bartlett says: "There are now almost 250,000 people in the
        displacement camps, among them an estimated 80,000 children. These
        people have been displaced numerous times and in reality the camps
        are yet another displacement, albeit one where they are safe and have
        their basic needs met. It is important to get people home as quickly
        as possible so they can feel a sense of ownership over their own
        lives, recover their dignity and livelihoods and create an
        environment where their children feel safe."

    (2) Bartlett says: "Getting children back home and then back to school
        will have the biggest impact on improving their health. Children need
        to be back in communities and classes where neighbours and teachers
        can keep an eye on them and restore a sense of normalcy which is what
        children crave. Hundreds of schools need to be rebuilt, repaired,
        re-staffed and restocked with equipment to make this a reality."

    (3) Bartlett says: "We need trust building programs to break down years
        of prejudice. It is especially important to focus on the next
        generation - the children - to give them the opportunities to meet
        and get to know each other. We would advocate for trust building
        programs that bring Tamil and Sinhala communities together,
        especially those who once lived along what was the Line of Control
        that divided the country."

    (4) Bartlett says: "A number of issues are competing for global funding
        attention including Pakistan and H1N1 but Sri Lanka should not be
        forgotten. We should remember the tens of thousands of children who
        will miss out if we don't help rebuild their families' lives and meet
        the specific needs of children themselves. We have already lost the
        futures of two generations of children to nearly three decades of
        war. This must not be allowed to continue."

        -  World Vision donors support more than 61,577 children in Sri
           Lanka, including 17,500 children sponsored by Canadians. Sponsored
           children are not in the conflict zone. World Vision began working
           in Sri Lanka in 1977.

        -  World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy
           organization dedicated to working with children, families and
           communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves
           all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.
    





For further information:

For further information: To interview World Vision staff, please
contact: Yoko Kobayashi, (905) 565-6200 ext. 2151, (416) 671-0086 (cell),
yoko_kobayashi@WorldVision.ca; Alex Sancton, (905) 565-6200 ext. 3949, (416)
419-1321 (cell), alex_sancton@WorldVision.ca


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