Responding in Sri Lanka

May 31, 2017

ShelterBox is sending a team to Sri Lanka to assess the needs of families displaced by monsoon rains that have devastated the island nation.

It’s estimated that 500,000 people have been affected and approximately 85,000 have been made homeless by the worst flooding and mudslides since 2003.

The team will be re-establishing partnerships with the Sri Lankan government, partner charities and local Rotary clubs in response to the Sri Lankan government’s appeal to the United Nations for help with rescue and relief efforts.

ShelterBox responded to flooding and mudslides in Sri Lanka in 2016, so team members will be able to share their expertise with partners and the Sri Lankan government.

This is déjà vu on a horrifying scale.

I was with our team last year, and I’m now flying again to meet up with our in-country contacts to carry out urgent assessments to help local families and communities.”

“Last year’s response has given us solid experience on how best to level and drain sites so tents can be safely pitched,” Luxton added. “But the conditions are bad.

Monsoon rains are still falling, and many rivers are still overflowing. We know from monitoring our aid provision last year what will work best, and we’ll be offering that expertise to the Sri Lankan authorities, with whom we already have a good working relationship.

James Luxton, ShelterBox Operations Team Lead


Sri Lanka’s emergency services are currently dealing with the rescue phase of the response, and many people are being housed in temporary shelters away from the flood zones.

The island’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC) warns that the death toll, which currently stands at more than 200, may rise as reports come in from outlying areas. And when the floodwaters recede, there may be a need for the temporary shelter that ShelterBox provides.

Sri Lanka is particularly vulnerable to what’s known as a “moving earth” mudslide phenomenon, which is a result of having cleared land over decades to grow export crops such as tea and rubber. When heavy rains fall, the deforested landscape can quickly become a torrent of mud with collapsing hillsides.


In 2016, ShelterBox provided tents and other humanitarian aid to hundreds of families across six different camps. The work was complex because the land had to be leveled and drained before it could be used safely, ensuring occupants wouldn’t be at risk from further storms and flooding.

ShelterBox teams worked in partnership with the Rotary Club of Capital City in Colombo, which provided invaluable local knowledge from a network of Rotarians across the island, and with the International Organization for Migration and World Vision.

ShelterBox is also monitoring the situation in Bangladesh, where Cyclone Mora reportedly destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and forced the evacuation of 450,000 people.


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