Satement made by Mr. O.L. Ameerajwad, Counsellor on behalf of Sri Lanka delegation under Agenda item 5: Humanitarian Affairs Segment of the Substantive Session of ECOSOC 2007 Geneva 16 July 2007

Mr. President,

Let me, first of all, congratulate you for leading this important Humanitarian Affairs Segment in this year’s Substantive session of the ECOSOC and express sincere appreciation of my delegation to the Bureau and the UN Secretariat for the excellent arrangement made in preparation of this meeting.

My delegation associates with the statement delevered by Pakistan on behalf of G - 77 and China. Our thanks are also due to Sir. John Holmes, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator for his comprehensive introductory statement. My delegation takes note of the reports submitted by the Secretary General under this segment.

My delegation also appreciates the Council’s decision on this year’s theme for the Humanitarian Affairs Segment and we believe that the deliberations under this theme would contribute for further strenthening the coordination of humanitarian assistance of the United Nations.

Mr. President,

In the aftermath of the tragic tsunami disaster, Sri Lanka has recorded remarkable achievements in restoring normalcy, primarily in key sectors such as housing, health, education, and livelihoods in the tsunami affected areas throughout the Island including conflict affected areas in the North & East, thanks to the Government’s commitment and national response as well as the excellent coordination and supportive efforts of the UN system.

Reconstruction & Development Agency (RADA) was set up by the President of Sri Lanka in 2005 to coordinate reconstruction process. Four main sectors were identified for reconstruction: 1. Housing 2. Livelihoods 3. Health, education and social protection 4. National infrastructure.

In the housing sector, we have been able to record an impressive 72% completion rate for all types of housing reconstruction.

In the livelihoods sector, a remarkable recovery of 75 – 80% of lost livelihoods was made. The fishery sector which was the most affected, regained tremendously during this period (75% recovery). Divisional Livelihood Development Plans which provides a framework for restoration of livelihoods have been launched in all 43 affected Divisional Secretaries Divisions. As a result of the cooperative initiatives, the latest ILO survey indicates recovery rates of 90% for the tourism sector, 80% for the M/SME sector, and 80% for the agriculture sector.

In the education sector, 134 out 183 damaged schools have been repaired. In the health sector, the Ministry of Health and Development Partners have been successful in preventing the outbreak of disease among affected populations in the initial Tsunami aftermath and over the past two years. The Government of Sri Lanka also developed a National Policy in Nutrition that defines the overall nutrition strategy of the country including response in time of disaster. A National Mental Health Policy was approved and is under implementation and efforts are being made to develop national disaster response capacity through the National Health Sector Emergency Preparedness plan and establishment of a trauma secretariat. Out of 102 buildings to be reconstructed 53 projects are ongoing. International donor Organizations including EC partners fund these projects.
Mr. President,

In the tsunami affected areas of the North & East of Sri Lanka, reconstruction and recovery activity under the aegis of the Government has been rapid. Majority of the displaced has returned to their homes and their livelihoods restored.

Overall in the North and the East of Sri Lanka, 77,900 houses were destroyed by the Tsunami. 40,696 new houses have up to date been re-constructed. This figure represents 52% of the requirement. Work is in progress in respect to reconstruction of 28,027 houses. This figure combined with the houses already completed totals a percentage of 88% of the houses required to be built.

The reconstruction of houses in Tsunami affected areas of the North and the East has registered a success rate of 88 % compared to the national average of 67 %. While the Government played the primary role in reconstruction, development partners, civil society and private donors made a significant contribution. The Eastern province has witnessed the completion of 36,141 houses at a 59% achievement level whilst the Northern province has registered an achievement level of 28%, despite the impediments of incessant terrorism and conflict affecting the building and construction industry in the North. 73% of the Tsunami IDPs living in temporary shelters in the North and East have been rehoused in permanent dwellings.

In the education sector, school attendance of children previously enrolled at Tsunami damaged schools and schools damaged through use as IDP camps has been brought back to normalcy through establishment of temporary buildings, repair of damaged structures or temporary arrangements for children to attend nearby functioning schools. Reconstruction of directly damaged schools (total 183) is making marked progress and 57% schools are in various stages of re - construction.

These are remarkable achievements, Mr. President, compared to the destructions we had witnessed two and half years ago, despite a number of challenges Sri Lanka has been facing during this period. We could not have done this without the support of the international community. We admit that things have not been perfect. Indeed, our efforts have been hampered by the ongoing conflict. However, the lessons learned from the humanitarian response to the tsunami are being incorporated in our response to provide much needed emergency assistance to conflict-affected communities in the North & East of Sri Lanka. The Government, in cooperation with the international community including UN agencies, the ICRC, EU and Co-chairs through a Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA), is making every effort to facilitate humanitarian and development assistance to conflict- affected areas. CCHA has been instrumental in facilitating access for humanitarian organizations to unlearned areas.

Mr. President,

Significant steps have been taken in Sri Lanka in the areas of risk reduction, improving the management of natural hazards as well as integration of disaster risk management into sustainable national development strategy.

Sri Lanka has established a framework for disaster risk management centering on a holistic approach, leading to a policy shift from relying too much on response based mechanisms to adopting a more proactive mitigation approach. A 10-year Road Map for disaster risk management – towards building a safer Sri Lanka – is already under implementation promoting multi stakeholder efforts through integrated disaster risk management. The components of the Road Map was developed through a consultative process which identified gaps, needs, priorities and strategies for further action and is consistent with the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Act and in line with the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005 – 2015).

Ministry of Disaster Management is in the process of establishing an effective early warning system for all natural disasters, giving priority not only to those more frequent disasters but also for those rare but most destructive hazards such as tsunamis. The early warning system will be end-to-end, linking hazard detection systems with warning communication, preparedness, mitigation and response, along with a feedback mechanism.

With an institutional base and supporting legal, policy framework in place, and a better understanding of what the key priorities for action are, we are now well on the way towards building a safer Sri Lanka.
Mr. President,

Before I conclude I take this opportunity to thank once again for the continuous assistance and unwavering support extended to Sri Lanka by the international community and the excellent coordination of the UN system in the recovery efforts led by the Government of Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the unprecedented tsunami disaster.

I thank you Mr. President.

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