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Tamil Catholics worry about Christmas in Sri Lanka

Floods add to woes of war-affected families still in temporary shelters

Niranjani Roland, Colombo

Niranjani Roland, Colombo

Published: December 23, 2015 03:42 AM GMT

Updated: December 22, 2015 05:45 PM GMT

Tamil Catholics worry about Christmas in Sri Lanka

Children from families displaced by the war and living in camps pose with their Christmas presents. (ucanews.com photo) 

After 30 years of civil war, Mary Stella, a widowed mother, and her three children now face another Christmas of hardship as floods wreak havoc in northern Sri Lanka.

"Our houses are under water," Stella said. "I don't really have presents for my children and relatives. We only ask God for strength to face the difficulties."

"My younger son asked for a Christmas tree but it costs more than 3,000 rupees (US$21) so I will just use a tree branch to make him happy," she said.

Inter-monsoon season low-pressure areas have caused heavy November — December rains.

Over 140,000 people in many parts of the country have been affected by floods, according to the Disaster Management Center, but the northern area is worst affected.

"Our villagers like to buy new clothes for children, whitewash their houses, let off fireworks and enjoy time with families but everybody is affected by floods this year," Stella explained.

The civil war between the Sri Lankan government and Liberation of Tamil Tiger Eelam rebel group lasted from 1983 until 2009.

Yet hundreds of war-affected families still live in temporary shelters constructed from tin sheets and palm leaf roofs.

"In 1996 my husband was shot dead by the army while he was working in a paddy field and since then we have lived in camps," K. Irudayarani, 35, told ucanews.com.

"My vegetable plot and hens have now also been destroyed by floods but there is no assistance from the government," she said.

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"An Indian government project is building a new house for us but it is still incomplete," she explained.

R. Ketheeswaran, district secretary of Mullaitivu, told ucanews.com that nearly 2,000 local people were affected by the floods.

"We provided three days worth of cooked food for the victims who moved to the camps. We also gave dried food for another week after they returned home," Ketheeswaran said. 

Charity Sister Nicola Emmanuel, who runs a program for war widows, said that hundreds of displaced people were suffering greatly.

"They live in low lying areas and the wells that they have dug for drinking water have caved in because of the floods," she said.

"They are on the verge of becoming homeless again and risk becoming victims of starvation."

"However, we will help them celebrate the birth of Jesus who came to feed the hungry, the starving, homeless, naked and in prison so that they will enjoy the blessings of the birth of Jesus," Sister Emmanuel said.

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