COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Displaced people in Sri Lanka’s north and east need permanent jobs more than anything else, according to the findings of a survey done with United Nations support.
A multi-pronged approach is needed that not only looks at providing jobs in new sectors such as information technology and tourism, but also in the more traditional sectors like agriculture, said Subinay Nandy, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Sri Lanka.
“Agriculture employs about one third of the returnee population, and with the application of new technologies coupled with a strong understanding of the local context, has room for significant improvements in terms of productivity and marketing,” he said.
The Joint Needs Assessment was a sample survey of over 6,000 households, covering all districts in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and Anaradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
“Looking at the JNA findings, perhaps the clearest priority that stands out is the need to provide greater opportunities for sustainable livelihoods,” Nandy told a donor conference of Sri Lanka’s development partners to draw up a policy and resettlement action plan.
“From the returnee families interviewed for example, over 60 percent reported a monthly income of less than 10,000 rupees (equivalent to about 2.50 US dollars a day), and in some districts the percentage was closer to 80 percent.”
Key vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, elderly people and single parent families also cited provision of livelihood support as their top priority during the survey, and warrant very specialized attention, Nandy said.
“Closely linked to the issue of livelihoods is food security and nutrition,” he said.
“While overall the JNA found food consumption to be at an acceptable level, 46 percent of families admitted to having used coping strategies at some time to access food, usually through borrowing food itself or money, or limiting food intake of adults.”
Internally displaced persons speak about difficulties in accessing their own land and property, housing needs and the continued influence of the military in civilian life. Nandy said.
“For women in particular, and especially female headed households, security is the prime concern, often linked to the high prevalence of sexual and gender based violence.”