The flood of 26th May, 2017 was one of the most devastating of its kind in Sri Lankan history, was brought on by the Southwestern monsoon that accompanied massive downpour measuring more than 500ml being the highest in some areas. According to the disaster management centre, heavy rain causing flood and earth slides inundated areas of Southern Sri Lanka has reportedly killed more than 183 people, 104 people still listed missing, 112,000 people are displaced and almost half a million people are affected. Also said these numbers could be much higher than the reports since authorities are unable to reach some of the areas due to heavy floods and mudslides.
All the DS divisions where Navajeevana works directly in the southern province were affected. Dickwella, Dewundara, Hakmana, Thihagoda, Krinda-Puhulwealla of Matara district and Walasmulla, Okewela, Weeraketiya, Katuwana of Hambantota district were those that were flooded. Majority of Navajeevana staff members are also living in these divisions, and due to flooded roads they couldn’t report to work. Some were able to communicate with DS office to find out the needs to start raising funds, and coordinating with other stakeholders who could support the relief work.
Mr. B. L. Chandrasena, the former President of Thihagoda Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) is an owner of a cycle repair workshop. He is a wheelchair user and the bread-winner of the family. Being an active disability advocate and an entrepreneur Mr. Chandrasena was a very good contributor to the Southern Province Action Committee for Disability Inclusive Economic Development (SPACDIED). When his village went under water in the night of the 26th of May 2017, his workshop and the house were flooded. With the support from his neighbours, he managed to move to a relatives’ house at a higher elevation. They were stuck there with no food or water for several days, having no boats to transport the relief workers. Due to crocodile-threats, they couldn’t use conventional water rafts as well.
June 2017: A team of Navajeevana staff members and DPO leaders, on June 01, 2017 started their journey to the villages in search of affected families of persons with disability. The DPO leaders, Divisional Secretaries and their relief teams including social service officers & social development officers, and volunteers joined us not only in providing information about people affected and their needs, but, also planning the visits and accompanying us to the affected areas. The team was able to reach the villages where the water level has decreased. There were many persons with disability stuck inside the flooded areas, supported by the community who took them to safer locations. For us, it was like visiting our relatives in a disastrous situation and they were so nice to welcome us with a caring smile, despite the losses and trauma they have experienced, . We offered them not much… though they were satisfied… we left them with a sigh. MUCH MORE TO DO!