Sri Lanka Flood Victims Protest over Slow Food Aid

( [email protected] ) Jan 20, 2011 06:24 AM EST

Survivors of Sri Lanka’s massive flood from heavy monsoon rains last week protested at a government office in the eastern part of the country on Monday over slow food aid.

More than 1,000 people surrounded the office in the village of Ariyampathy in Batticaloa district and smashed windows, accusing officials of mismanaging relief supplies. Victims accused local politicians of giving food to their supporters rather than distributing supplies fairly.

Police eventually dispersed the protesters, but not after at least one staff member was wounded.

More than a million people were affected by last week’s monsoon rains, and at least 43 people died. About 17,900 people are still staying in state-run relief camps as of Tuesday morning, down from 58,000 on Monday.

Gospel for Asia reported that one of the missionaries it supports in Sri Lanka, Anthony, has lost his home and all his possession in the flood. Anthony (last name not provided), who serves as a pastor in the Batticaloa district, was able to escape safely with his wife and children even though his house collapsed from the flood waters.

At least 5,000 homes have been washed away and more than 200,000 acres of crops are under water.

"The people of Sri Lanka are suffering in a way that is almost unimaginable," said Gospel for Asia President Dr. K.P. Yohannan. "The country has not yet recovered from the record rainfalls that brought severe flooding last year, and now they are battling the same thing again. They need relief, and they need our prayers."

The Asia-focused mission group is helping to meet immediate needs by distributing food packets to flood victims. Last week, GFA gave out 200 food packets to people in the Batticaloa region. The packets contain rice, lentil beans, sugar, dried fish and soya meat. Families also received soap to keep diseases from spreading, and mats to sleep on.

Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist Global Response is trying to get in touch with local partners in Sri Lanka. BGR Executive Director Jeff Palmer said communication in the disaster zone is difficult and the relief group is still trying to assess the needs and find out how it can help.

“In many disasters, the most immediate needs can be met most effectively by purchasing relief supplies locally, rather than trying to ship them in,” Palmer noted. “When we do that, we not only get people the kind of help they need quickly, but we also help them begin to rebuild their lives by infusing the local economy with jobs and money.”

The top U.N. official of humanitarian affairs, Catherine Bragg, will visit Sri Lanka on Wednesday to access flood damages.