OCHA in Sri Lanka
OCHA has been present in Sri Lanka since immediately after the December 2004 Tsunami, with seven field offices located across the country to support coordination and information management, while the Colombo office mainly served as the secretariat to the UN Resident / Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) and assisted the work of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.
OCHA realigned its field offices and focus in early 2006, when renewed violence erupted. Field officers in the conflict-affected Eastern and Northern provinces monitored the humanitarian situation, including emerging needs, vulnerabilities and risks. They also strengthened NGO liaison and sector working groups and fostered closer collaboration with the Government. OCHAs area of operation was reduced as the conflict came to an end in 2009, when humanitarian support was concentrated on the Northern affected areas. Following the humanitarian convoys and reception of IDPs after the conflict, consultations with UN, NGO and donor partners reinforced the need for OCHA to strengthen its Northern field presence in effort to provide stronger leadership in coordination and advocacy.
Support to government structures – and in particular the Ministry of Disaster Management (MoDM) [MoDM Originally called the Ministry of disaster Management and Human Rights, the Ministry’s mandate now only covers Disaster Management following the reorganization of Ministerial portfolios in April 2010.] – continued over the entire presence in Sri Lanka through capacity building and the secondment of highly specialized GIS staff. Common planning to support the MoDM’s lead role in disaster preparedness and response has resulted in a number of valuable initiatives and outputs.
Following the end of the conflict Government priorities have shifted toward economic development and recovery / reconstruction, however, they continue to address the residual humanitarian needs that exist across the conflict-affected areas, supported by UN and partners. In line with this shift OCHA, together with the UN RC/HC office and UNDP and in consultation with partners at central and field level, is undertaking a planning exercise to ensure a smooth, sustainable transition of coordination structures aimed to facilitate programming and implementation of activities into the next step of recovery. An integrated coordination office to ensure capacity to support coordination, information and advocacy needs is planned to be in place by end 2011.
During 2011, the main OCHA office will continue to be located in Colombo to support ongoing operations, as well as respond to emerging needs – especially related to natural disasters – across the country. Field resources will be concentrated in Killinochchi, with a satellite office in Vavuniya and minimal presence in Jaffna to ensure coverage across the Northern Province.
For more information about OCHA, visit OCHA On-line .