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Helping Returnee Families in the North with Sanitation Facilities

August 2013, Northern Province, Sri Lanka

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in partnership with the International Non-Governmental Organisation, Soroptimist International Kagoshima (SIK) and the Rural Development Foundation (RDF) is supporting conflict affected families in Killinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts in Sri Lanka's Northern Province to construct sanitation facilities in their homes.

This water and sanitation initiative, with JPY 2,000,000 funding from SIK, has to-date assisted over 80 families to construct sanitary toilets in their premises through a people's participatory process of construction. In total, the project will support 132 families by September 2013.

The three decades of conflict in Sri Lanka destroyed vital infrastructure including public buildings, water supply schemes and houses in the Northern Province. Following the end of the conflict in mid-2009, when families returned to their villages of origin, they found that their homes had been damaged or destroyed. The displaced families lived in makeshift shelters with little or no access to proper sanitation facilities for several years. While thousands of families are rebuilding their damaged homes with their own resources as well as donor funding, some home owners do not have adequate funds to construct toilets in their premises. This water and sanitation initiative is assisting returnees who currently do not have their own sanitation facilities to construct sanitary toilets adjacent to their homes. Founded in Kagoshima, Japan in 1973, SIK is an international volunteer organization for business and professional women whose mission is to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world.

Mrs. D Jagatheeswaran, project beneficiary from Padiyamkulam village in Oddusudan Divisional Secretariat (DS) Division, who recently completed constructing her toilet stated, "We underwent much hardship before SIK provided funding to build our toilet. We had to use the surrounding woods. I had to keep my 3 year old daughter with my neighbours due to safety reasons. Now I'm not worried as the toilet is constructed within our premises".

Mrs. V Balasingam, another beneficiary from Poovarasankulam village in Manthai East DS Division, said "I have four small children under the age of 10. As we had no toilet in our house, my entire family including the children had to use the nearby woods. The Public Health Inspector advised us not to use open spaces for sanitation purposes due to health risks. But we had no other option. SIK's assistance really helped us solve this problem. Since my husband is a mason, I helped him with the construction work and we completed the toilet well ahead of schedule".

Each sanitation facility is constructed to minimum standards which includes a pour flush and squatting plate with an effluent disposal system such as a septic tank or a soakage pit. The superstructure of the toilet is constructed with material specified for walls with sufficient ventilation, roof materials of clay roof tiles, corrugated GI sheets or a concrete slab, internal plastering, floor concreting and rendering and a lockable door.
This joint initiative by SIK, UN-Habitat and RDF is contributing towards improved health and hygiene and better quality of life for the returnee families in the North.

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