National Disaster Management

The recent sharp increase in the number of natural disasters across the country has prompted the Red Cross to focus more on disaster preparedness activities. These are intended to raise the awareness of Red Cross Societies and communities about the risks they face, how to reduce their vulnerability, and how to cope when disaster strikes.

Responding to natural and man-made disasters has been a core activity of SLRCS throughout its 60+ year presence in the country. The increasing number of disasters has prompted SLRCS to focus on further improving its response capacity in order to better meet the needs of the growing number of disaster victims.

Floods and landslides caused by monsoon rains occur on an annual basis in the country, whereas droughts and cyclones are more widespread and occur on an irregular basis. Furthermore, for over two decades in the northeast, the country has been scarred by a long and bitter civil war fueled by ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority. The war, which was won militarily, ended in May 2009, displacing nearly 495,000 people.

Disasters have a high psychological impact on people, leaving them traumatized by the loss of kin, homes, possessions, and food stocks. SLRCS responds to disasters by providing emergency relief to disaster victims, which includes food, non-food, water, shelter, and basic health care to meet immediate needs, as well as long-term rehabilitation assistance such as livelihoods and reconstruction to return them to normalcy.

Although Sri Lanka is not considered a high disaster risk country, the likelihood and frequency of small and medium-scale disasters have increased significantly over the last two decades as a result of global climate change. Keeping this in mind, as well as the lessons learned from the Tsunami response operation, SLRCS has been preparing the manpower and expertise needed to meet the challenges ahead. SLRCS has developed a Disaster Management policy and strategy to strengthen its legislative and institutional disaster response arrangements.

It has prepared contingency plans and established a “National Disaster Response Team” (NDRT) at the national level, as well as a “Branch Disaster Response Team” (BDRT) at the district level, in each of its 21 branches. During a disaster, these teams are deployed to the affected districts to assess, plan, and carry out response activities. Various disaster response guidelines/manuals and training have also been developed in order to incorporate standards into its disaster response activities.

SLRCS intends to continue its efforts to improve and institutionalize its response capacity at all levels in order to provide assistance to vulnerable people in an efficient and effective manner, utilising human, physical, and material resources.