I visited the North and North East of Sri Lanka, with the help of a local NGO.
The travel overland north of Batticaloa, an east coastal town of Sri Lanka, to the small village of Omadiyamadu showed me how remote people live and how difficult it is for them to connect with any kind of infrastructure, or the city Batticaloa. The Omadiyamadu villagers have been relocated many times during the civil war and live again in temporary shelters. The villagers have limited access to electricity; some have solar energy panels that were provided to them mounted on their roofs. They also have limited access to fresh water during the dry season. The wells that could provide drinking water would need to be 10 meters deep, but there are no heavy machines available to do the digging.
Some of the people have lived in their temporary homes for as long as 10 years – simple structures made of wood and metal sheets. It gets very hot inside during the dry months and the mud floors soak up water during the rainy season – the buildings do not give adequate protection from the weather.
Their huts are 6 to 12 square meters; the people do not possess beds or mosquito nets. They sleep on the mud floors, mostly on straw mats. Poisonous snakes are a constant threat because the huts do not provide any kind of protection. Moreover, as there is no money for lamp oil, the villagers cannot leave a lamp on overnight to fend off the snakes and rats. I met a family whose son was suffering from malaria. The 12-year old boy was lying on the bare floor, curled in the corner of their hut, with just a rag over his body. Doctors and medicine are far away, so often people die from malaria or dengue. The family does not have a mosquito net, so the rest of the family could be next. The villagers don’t trust the peace situation; they do not believe that the constant moving and resettling during the civil war might finally have found an end.
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