UN official meets Sri Lanka's war victims

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 20, 2011 15:20 hrs

A top UN official travelled to Sri Lanka's former war zone Thursday, during a visit to flood-devastated regions where a million people were recently affected by heavy monsoon rains, officials said.

Catherine Bragg, the UN's deputy emergency relief coordinator, spoke with civilians displaced by the Tamil separatist war and held talks with officials directing flood-relief operations.

"During her conversations with displaced people, she (Bragg) asked if they had enough grant funds to rebuild their houses or restore their livelihoods," UN spokeswoman Christien Mildren said.

Bragg flew to the eastern town of Batticaloa to meet local government officials and UN staff to assess flood-relief work after visiting the north-eastern regions where fighting raged till May 2009.

Bragg formally launched a flash appeal in Colombo for 51 million dollars to help victims that were affected by the recent floods in the island's north, east and central regions.

According to the Disaster Management Centre, flooding killed 43 people and affected over a million.

Bragg said at the start of her visit to Sri Lanka that she hoped donors would respond quickly to help survivors who were mostly "desperately vulnerable to begin with."

"As the longer-term economic impact is also bound to be serious, assistance now will be crucial for the recovery effort that must follow," she said.

Bragg said the floods were an enormous and tragic setback for the communities, who were slowly rebuilding their lives following the 2004 Asian tsunami and the civil conflict.

"It's hard to comprehend how people can recover from yet another disaster, especially as they were at a stage where they had planted crops and had the possibility of a sustained livelihood," she said.

Bragg, who arrived on Wednesday, will leave on Friday after meeting senior Sri Lankan government officials.