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SRI LANKA: Responding to Needs of Thousands Displaced by Sri Lankan Civil War

(MissionNewswire) Although there has been an official end to the civil war in Sri Lanka, the devastation and displacement of thousands of lives continues causing great need. Salesian Missions has responded with increased programs and supplies to the region helping displaced populations and rebuilding lives.

Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions – headquartered in New Rochelle, NY, spoke about the work of Salesian Missions saying, “The situation is extremely critical. Salesian missionaries throughout Sri Lanka are desperately trying to assist thousands of displaced people who have escaped civil war violence. Salesian Missions is calling on the generosity of Americans to help rebuild lives in Sri Lanka.”

Women and children are believed to make up more than 80 percent of displaced populations in Sri Lanka. The majority of women widowed in the Eastern Province during nearly three decades of war are under the age of 30. The widows in the east are in urgent need of employment and livelihood opportunities. Changing conditions due to displacement have opened up new possibilities for women and led to their becoming more active in paid employment than prior to displacement. Salesian Missions is providing shelter at long term temporary camps for these families and job skills training to offer better opportunities. In addition to job skills training, these camps are also providing food, clothing, medicine at mobile clinic facilities and ambulance service as immediate support.

Salesian Missions has a particular focus on displaced children in the region.

Many youth were forced into becoming soldiers during the conflict. Hundreds were killed, maimed and wounded in the areas of conflict in Vanni. Casualties since January 2009 are believed to include hundreds of youth killed and more than 1,000 injured. The conflict has additionally disrupted the education of at least 60,000 students in the north.

“The Sri Lankan government has asked us to take in nearly 500 rescued child soldiers who have no where else to go,” says Fr. Hyde. “These youth have been ripped from their homes and families and have never attended school. If we are to rebuild these young lives, we must teach them job skills and give them the chance for a better life.” Technical training and education that help youth learn to help themselves and increase the capacity of their families and their communities will be a primary focus of the Salesian work in Sri Lanka.

Salesian Missions programs are found well beyond the borders of Sri Lanka. They are in more than 130 countries around the globe, and have reached more than 3 million youth over the past six decades. Even more impressive, the international programs have been made possible by the generosity of more than 5 million Americans.

Fr. Mark adds that all families and youth in Sri Lanka deserve to live safe and productive lives. In order to help the more than 14,000 displaced residents at the Murunkan IDP (internally displaced persons) Center, Salesian Missions needs the continued help of generous American donors.

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