Monday, June 15, 2009

Toilet Crisis in IDP Camps: UN report

Toilet Crisis in IDP Camps: UN report
By Chathuri Dissanayake

Only half of the required toilets and one sixth of the entire requirement of bathing spaces are available for the displaced people in Vavuniya camps, a United Nations report said.

While about 6,000 toilets are needed in the camps, only about 3,150 have been constructed and about 2800 need to be set up immediately, the report said. To reduce the ratio from 1:50 to 1:20, nearly 11,500 more toilets will have to be set up later.

Only 200 bathing spaces have been set up though 1,200 are needed. The Sunday Times learns that restrictions by the government on access to these camps have affected the progress of the relief work there. James Elder the spokesperson for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is playing a major role in meeting the water and sanitation needs of the IDP camps, said, restrictions caused serious impediments in carrying out their work. However, they were doing their best.

"More needs to be done for these long-suffering people to get more water and sanitation facilities. Whilst the camps are run by the government, UNICEF and others continue to provide as much assistance as possible", he said.

Resettlement Minister Rishad Bathuideen said the government had advised UNICEF to set up 2,000 toilets in partnership with the Ceylon Engineering Consultancy Bureau and another 500 in collaboration with the State Development and Construction Corporation. “We are still facing difficulties as there was a sudden influx of displaced people. We hope to provide the facilities within a month,” he said.

According to the report there is insufficient cleared and levelled land for 15,000 tents and 11,000 emergency shelters which are currently available while more than 15,000 emergency shelters are required to meet the needs of the IDPs. The UN report also highlights the problem of an irregular water distribution system across the camp site though sufficient water is now available.

Mr. Bathuideen said talks were held between the government and the UN partners to provide 23,000 more shelters. He said, that with the opening of Malwathu Oya water project, the authorities could provide 500,000 litres of water to the IDP camps every day.

“The Water Board is taking steps to establish a purification point closer to the camp site. For drinking water we are planning to dig more tube wells,” the minister said.

The World Food Programme is short of $ 35 million of funds to meet the food needs of the IDPs. The WFP needs the funds to provide 300,000 IDPs food for three months from October till the end of the year.

“Food stocks are available till the end of September. The shortage is for the three months after that. Since it takes three to six months to get the food stuff, the earlier we get the funds the better” WFP Country Director Adnan Khan said.

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