The sharp increase in the number of natural disasters countrywide in recent years has prompted the Red Cross to devote more attention to Disaster preparedness activities. These aim to make Red Cross Societies and communities more aware of the risks they face, how to reduce their vulnerability, and how to cope when disaster strikes.
Responding to disasters both natural and manmade has been a core activity of SLRCS throughout its 60+ years presence in the country. The continuous rise in the number of disasters has driven SLRCS to focus on further improving its response capacity in order to be better prepared to meet the needs of the increasing number of disaster victims.
Floods and landslides brought in by the monsoon rains are an annual occurrence in the country while droughts and cyclones are more wide spread and occasional. In addition, the country has been scarred by a long and bitter civil war arising out of ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority for over two decades in the northeast. The war which was won militarily came to an end in May 2009 displacing nearly 495,000 individuals.
The impact of disasters on people is high leaving them traumatised by the death of their kin, loss of homes, possessions and stocks of food. In responding to disasters SLRCS provides emergency relief to the victims of disasters which comprises of food, non-food, water, shelter and basic health care to meet the immediate needs and also provide in the long term, rehabilitation assistance such as livelihoods and reconstruction to bring them back to normalcy.
Although Sri Lanka is not considered a high disaster risk country, the tendency and frequency of occurrence of small and medium scale disasters have increased significantly during the last two decades as a result of the global climate change phenomena. Keeping this in mind along with the learning from the Tsunami response operation, SLRCS has been equipping itself with the manpower and expertise required to meet the challenges ahead. SLRCS has developed its Disaster Management policy and strategy to strengthen its legislative and institutional arrangements for disaster response. It has developed contingency plans and formed a “National Disaster Response team’’ (NDRT) at the national level and “Branch Disaster Response Team’’ (BDRT) at the district level in 21 of its branches. These teams are mobilized during disasters to the affected districts to assess, plan and implement response activities. Various guidelines/ manuals and trainings for disaster response have also been developed to build in standards in its disaster response activities.
The SLRCS plans to continue its efforts with the aim to improve and institutionalize its response capacity at all levels in order to provide assistance to the vulnerable people efficiently & effectively, utilizing human, physical and material resources.