Individuals served in 2018: 39,365
Volunteers engaged in 2018: 572
- Population: Over 22.5 million
- Urbanization: 18.5 percent lives in cities
- Life expectancy: 77.1 years
- Unemployment rate: 4.4 percent
- Population living below poverty line: 6.7 percent
Source: World Factbook
Habitat for Humanity in Sri Lanka
Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka seeks to provide decent and affordable housing to marginalized and vulnerable communities across the country. Established in 1994, Habitat Sri Lanka has enabled more than 25,400 families to build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Habitat also implements water, sanitation and hygiene projects. To rebuild lives and increase resilience, Habitat Sri Lanka works with disaster-affected families to build homes and conducts training in disaster risk reduction.
The housing need in Sri Lanka
Despite great advances made by Sri Lankan housing programs, the need for safe, secure and permanent housing in the country is made more pressing by poverty, civil strife and natural disasters such as cyclones, floods, landslides. A decade after the 26-yearlong civil war ended in 2009, many families are still identified as internally displaced persons, living in temporary tin sheet shacks in the north and east of the country. It is estimated that one in two people living in the capital Colombo is a slum dweller who lacks adequate access to clean water and safe sanitation. The lack of decent housing for tea, rubber and coconut plantation workers is another area of concern. These poverty-stricken workers live in inadequate housing known as line houses without proper water and sanitation facilities.
How Habitat addresses the need in Sri Lanka
For nearly 25 years, Habitat Sri Lanka has partnered with supporters and volunteers to build decent and affordable homes for families in need of adequate housing. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami nearly 3,000 families were supported to rebuild their homes through the reconstruction housing project led by Habitat Sri Lanka. In May 2013, a 4,000-home housing project funded by the Indian government for internally displaced people in the Eastern Province was launched. In February 2017, a 14-million-euro (more than US$14.8 million) project funded by the European Union broke ground in the Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Batticaloa districts. The multi-faceted housing project will support 2,455 war-affected families in northern and eastern Sri Lanka and feature the use of locally made construction materials. In 2018, Habitat Sri Lanka constructed nearly 100 homes for rural plantation workers with funding from the Indian government, and 37 homes were constructed for flood-affected families in Kalutara.
Habitat Sri Lanka works with families to build decent, affordable homes about 51 square meter (550 square feet) in size with two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and toilet. Building their core house incrementally gives families the option of expanding it when funds are available. Under the homeowner-driven construction approach, the future Habitat homeowner contributes to the house design and chooses the materials and suppliers while Habitat Sri Lanka provides technical support and construction expertise. Families are also trained in the use of eco-friendly locally made construction materials and alternative construction technologies.
Water and sanitation
With chronic kidney disease being a serious health problem, particularly in rural Sri Lanka, Habitat is committed to providing families with access to safe drinking water to contain the threat. The works include the installation of water tanks, distribution of water filters and training in water purification, construction of wells and latrines. Through training conducted in schools and rural communities, Habitat aims to instill good hygienic practices. With support from Hatton National Bank, Habitat provided 50 families in Batticaloa with access to safe drinking water through the donation of water storage tanks and more than 150 students with access to safe sanitation through the construction of three toilets.
Habitat Sri Lanka helps disaster-affected families through the distribution of emergency shelter kits and clean-up kits in the aftermath of a disaster. Transitional shelters and core houses may also be provided at a later stage. Habitat Sri Lanka constructed 80 houses for families who were affected by landslides following May 2016’s Cyclone Roanu and distributed emergency hygiene kits to 1,000 families in Galle and Kalutara districts following 2017’s Cyclone Mora. With funding from the European Union, Habitat is building 2,455 homes with internally displaced persons in Kilinochchi, Batticaloa and Mullaitivu districts. In addition, 37 families who lived in temporary shelters in a flood-prone community in Kalutara partnered with Habitat Sri Lanka to construct their own homes.
Meet a Habitat family
When Indika’s wife Sudarshani was diagnosed with epilesy, he gave up his livelihood of deep sea fishing to become a daily wage laborer so he could take care of his family. Living from hand to mouth, his family of six including Indika’s mother had to stay put in their temporary wooden shelter in Kalutara in the Western Province. In 2018, the family had the opportunity to build a secure permanent home when Habitat Sri Lanka started a project to rebuild the homes of flood-affected families. Excited that her wish is fulfilled, Sudarshani says: “This is the beginning of a brand-new chapter in our lives.”