Helping the war-affected resume livelihoods

16 Mar 2009

Saroruban Croos (46) and his family had been displaced from their village, Savereyapuram in Mannar District, since September 2007. After having spent over a year and a half in Nannatan IDP camp the Croos family is one among the first 112 families to be resettled in their home villages in Musali, in the west of Mannar District.

The Government Agent (GA) of Mannar prioritized Musali as one of the first areas that needed to be prepared for the return of its original population. Because the District has been in the middle of the war zone for some time, the threat of landmines and Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) necessitated a survey to be carried out in order to establish whether the area was contaminated or not. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported District Mine Action Office in Vavuniya assisted the GA in issuing the survey task to the Swiss Demining Foundation (FSD).

As many areas in the North are currently uninhabited due to the displacement of its populations, carrying out a survey in those areas is a very difficult task. In many countries with landmine problems, the inhabitants of the area are generally the most important source of information for the identification of contaminated areas. It is the people who know the history of their area, whether livestock have died or been injured while grazing because they stepped on a mine, or whether children have seen UXO lying around while playing in the neighborhood. Because Saroruban’s village was uninhabited at the time of the survey, FSD came to look for the villagers in the camp in Nannatan to see if they could help them. Thankfully, no contamination was found in Savereyapuram and so the survey concluded that the land could be released and was safe for resettlement. FSD informed the villagers, though, that if they did find any UXO they should inform the GS or the ‘father’ of the village immediately.

On May 28th the Croos family, along with 111 other families, resettled in the area. Because his house was destroyed, Saroruban received assistance from International Organization for Migration (IOM) to rebuild his house again. Oxfam’s water and sanitation project in the area provided running water for the new houses in the village, something they did not have before. 

Life for the Croos family is now slowly taking back its normal shape. The oldest son has returned to school and Saroruban has gone back to being a fisherman.

While there is still a lot of room for improvement in their lives (they need better fishing boats and nets as well as electricity and drinking water), Saroruban says he is glad to be able to resume his normal life with his family and that after a long period of hardship he is ‘living very happily’ again in his home village.