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Sri Lanka Struggles to Stay above Water

June 9, 2016

Houses under water in Sri Lanka.
More than 288,000 people remain affected by flooding and landslides across nine districts of Sri Lanka.

In one of the areas hardest hit by last month's flooding in Sri Lanka, a Christian leader and his wife did not let his disease, the needs of his paralyzed father or lack of funding stop them from bringing aid to victims.

Knowing the needs of people near the town of Aranayaka, where more than 150 people died in flooding and landslides, the area church leader and his wife set out with locally gathered relief items to help survivors. Villagers donated food packets for them to deliver to victims struggling to survive in hard-to-reach areas, the director of an indigenous ministry said.

"The church leader and his wife spent the whole day in the area – their feet were muddy and bleeding when they came home," he said. "The leader also bleeds because he has cancer or something serious like it, the doctor told him, and he does not have financial resources for treatment. So in spite of this condition and his father who is 67 and paralyzed, he and his wife went to help people so they do not die of starvation."

More than a week of heavy downpours on the island country off the coast of India started May 14 from a tropical depression in the Bay of Bengal, causing extensive flash floods that affected about 500,000 people across 22 of the country's 25 districts, aid agencies report. About half of the approximately 200 people killed or missing were lost as a result of two landslides near Aranayaka, in the hills of Kegalle District, some 75 miles northeast of the capital, Colombo.

At its peak, the flooding sent 300,000 people to shelters and another 200,000 to take refuge with friends and relatives. While many people have returned home as the waters subside, more than 288,000 people remain affected by flooding and landslides across nine districts, according to the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Centre. Total damages from the flooding were estimated at between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. The torrential rains, the worst in 25 years, left the Sri Lankan government planning to rebuild between 23,000 and 30,000 houses that were destroyed or damaged.

"Many people have returned safely to their homes. However, there are hundreds of people in the landslide affected area of Kegalle who are in need of permanent relocation because their homes were completely destroyed," according to a report by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). "Due to the advent of the south-western monsoon, the risk of flooding remains."

Landslide warnings remain in place in the districts of Kandy, Rathnapura, Nuwara Eliya, Kegalle and Kalutara, according to UNOCHA.

"The water was up to roof level, and they have lost everything," the ministry director said. "The furniture and household goods cannot be used."

The leader of another indigenous ministry that provides shelters and schooling for impoverished children said the families of some of its schoolchildren have lost their homes.

"Praise God the areas of our homes for children have not been affected, but families of the children in our school and families of other known believers have been affected, and some have lost everything as waters have gone up to roof level," she said. "We request you to please pray for us at this time of need. We are trying to help the best way we can."

The home of one student's family was devastated by the flooding, the director said.

 Indigenous ministry workers ferry food, water and medicines to needy families.
Indigenous ministry workers ferry food, water and medicines to needy families.

"The water was up to roof level, and they have lost everything," she said. "The furniture and household goods cannot be used. I visited the area with the lady who owns the house, and I was so encouraged when she said that she thanks God that their lives were saved."

The family will not be able to return to their house in the near future.

"The area is muddy, mucky and full of debris," she said. "People have just dumped the debris on the street. The area is infested with mosquitos and is a health hazard. She and her husband waded through the waters carrying their two children."

While efforts shift toward long-term recovery and reconstruction, the livelihood of many remains under water or mired in mud; besides buried farmland, the government estimates more than 300,000 small and medium businesses were destroyed or damaged. Needs for relief items such as food, potable water and medicines continue. Eager to work with and for their countrymen, indigenous missionaries have the ability to gather locally donated items and distribute them through networks working in the name of Christ.

"We have to give them more dry foods like rice, dry fish, fish tins, cereals and coconut," the indigenous ministry leader said. "We need more rice packets. A five kilogram rice bag costs nearly $5. Each fish tin is $2."

The director said that, in a country that is 70 percent Buddhist and 13 percent Hindu, many of the suffering families receiving aid would be hearing about Jesus. She requested prayer for "the many who are still grieving the loss of home and loved ones." To help indigenous missionaries meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 600DIS. Thank you!

Provide relief and recovery for flood victims in Sri Lanka
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