PUTHUKKUDIYIRUPPU, Sri Lanka – A top U.N. official launched a $51 million fundraising drive for Sri Lankan flood victims Thursday after taking a tour of areas affected by the flood and decimated by the nation's civil war.
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg flew Thursday to a village in northern Mullaittivu district, a former stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels that saw much destruction during their failed war for independence.
The civil war ended in 2009 with a government victory.
Bragg met U.N. agency and government officials as well as teams working to clear land mines left from the war.
She also visited people who were forced from their homes during the fighting. Most of the 300,000 displaced people returned to their villages only to find their homes destroyed. Several thousand refugees remain in camps, awaiting relocation.
Some of the Tamils told Bragg they needed help to rebuild homes and complained of too few doctors.
Bragg said that some progress has been made in meeting the needs of the war-displaced families.
"However, those who have been released now face a daily struggle to rebuild their lives, and have to start from scratch. There is nothing left. They are going to need schools and teachers, hospitals and doctors, and basic social services," Bragg was quoted as saying in a U.N. statement.
Bragg later visited the country's east, where government officials briefed her about the devastation caused by recent flooding.
Much of the water has receded, but rice crops ready for harvesting were dead and rotting. Mud homes were washed away.
After returning to the capital, Colombo, she launched the $51 million appeal to help flood victims through the next six months.
The flooding killed 43 people and left four missing. More than 1 million people were affected, with about half facing food shortages and the threat of waterborne diseases.
Some 5,700 houses were destroyed and 23,000 others damaged. Vast rice fields were inundated, and thousands of cattle, goats and poultry were lost.
Schools were heavily damaged, and instruction materials for students are needed.
"These floods are an enormous and tragic setback for a community that is slowly rebuilding their lives following the 2004 tsunami and recovering from the decades-long conflict," Bragg said in the statement. "I hope donors will respond rapidly."