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09/27/2012

An Empty Welcome Home (Part 1)

The GN Division of Mallikaithivu is located 5km inland in the DS Division of Puthukkudiyiruppu, Mullativu District. Though some natives sustained their livelihood by fishing, the majority supported themselves by farming. These Tamils are 2nd and 3rd generation migrants, a movement stemming from of a government policy in the 1950’s which saw natives migrate from the Jaffna district and immerse themselves in peanut farming.

Internal conflict within the country was the impetus for moving. In order to escape becoming a casualty of war, they had no choice but to flee from their homeland, and congregate in refugee camps known as “manic camps”. The opportunity to return home finally came on August 10, 2012 — more than three years since the end of the war. Since then, 394 families have returned home within a month.

The UN aided the returning families, providing trucks and buses for transportation. For the families, provisions received were not limited to foodstuffs — cookware, shovels, knife, vinyl sheets, and other essentials were also distributed.

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The returnees arrive home to an empty welcome. Scrap wood, leftovers of war, and the few remains of their homes lie in tatters. A stark contrast to the homes they left behind before the war.

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After clearing space by removing debris, places are allocated for the construction of tents, which require sturdy pieces of wood for the frames.

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Monthly provisions of rice, dried beans, coconut oil, sugar and wheat flour are supplied. Other ingredients such as meat, fish, eggs and vegetables can be bought from surrounding towns; however, the distance (6km) from these towns as well as a lack of public transportation facilities means a long walk, or a bicycle ride for those few who own such luxuries.

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(continued in part 2)

September 27, 2012 in Sri Lanka |