Batti’s IDPs: Languishing without livelihood
From coastal areas to the paddy fields in Batticaloa town, all that meets the eye is a sea of triangular shaped blue and white structures. These are the temporary shelters of the internally displaced people who fled to Batticaloa town from the West of Batticaloa.
The recent military operations in the uncleared areas of Western Batticaloa left more than 30,000 families displaced.
Sixty year old K.Thiruvakaran staying in a camp in Palameenmadu close to the town recalled his experience. “This war broke out suddenly. Within seconds, everyone started running in all directions. Our homes were in a farming area and the land was very fertile Here we don’t have anything to do. No work, no money.”
|Internally displaced families at the Palameenamadu camp
“When we were running for our lives I saw huge shells falling into some paddy cultivation in the area. I don’t know what happened to my paddy field, cattle and equipment,” he said.
Having gone abroad in search of a better life and falling prey to a trap there Navakumar was forced to return to his village in Vavunaitivu and had started earning his livelihood from farming . But now he is one among the displaced people.
“I was part of a group that was promised jobs in Dubai. But we were hoodwinked and we ended up in Iraq. After enduring a month of hardship we were sent back home. Although I felt humiliated I was happy to be back and decided to take up farming. But I could stay only five days in my village on returning to Sri Lanka. The war broke out and now we have nothing. I feel useless without a job,” he lamented.
S.Kalaichelvi, a 28 years old mother of four from Pavakodichenai, said she spends her time looking after the children and cleaning up their little tent. However she says she finds it difficult to feed her children as she has very little money.
Batticaloa’s Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Charath Chandran said they cannot make long term plans about the livelihood of the displaced people as they won’t be staying there permanently.
“Funds have not been allocated to address the livelihood question of the displaced people. Donors are reluctant to fund even temporary livelihood opportunities for IPDs as the duration of their stay is uncertain. We can only start thinking about giving them some livelihood opportunities once they are resettled back in their homes,” Mr. Chandran said adding that some NGOs have introduced cash for work programmes, but not many displaced people benefit from it..
Batticaloa’s Additional GA K. Mahesan too agreed that livelihood programmes can only be looked into once they are resettled.
“The first phase of the resettlement programme is to begin on May 14. We will start with resettling people from the village of Vellaveli. Once they are resettled we will look in to reviving their farming activities,” he said.
He said after resettling the displaced of Vellaveli they will follow up with resettlement in Pattipalam, Vavunaitivu, Chenkalady West, and Kiran West .
The internally displaced from West of Batticaloa are presently sheltered in four Divisions with 3, 601 families staying in camps and 5, 418 with host families in Kaluwanchikudi Division, 3,203 families staying in camp and 2,589 with host families in Ariayampathi Division, 4,032 families staying in camp and 2,059 with host families in Eravur Pattu and 2,704 families staying in camps and 3,798 with host families Batticaloa town. Commenting on the health condition of the displaced people, Provincial Director of Health, Dr.Sathurumugam said a few cases of eye diseases and chicken pox had been reported but necessary steps had been taken to curb the spread of the diseases.