Individuals served in 2017: 37,715
- Population: Over 22.4 million
- Urbanization: 18.5 percent lives in cities
- Life expectancy: 76.9 years
- Unemployment rate: 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 24,600 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 housing programs in Sri Lanka, the need for safe, secure and permanent housing in Sri Lanka is made more pressing by poverty, civil strife and natural disasters such as cyclones, floods, landslides. Nearly a decade after the 26-year-long 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 23 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-milllioneuro (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. Funding from Alwaleed Philanthropies in 2017 provided for the construction of 80 homes for cyclone-affected families in the Kegalle district. In 2018, Habitat Sri Lanka is building 100 homes for rural plantation workers with funding from the Indian government, and 37 homes are being constructed for flood-affected families in Kalutara.
Habitat Sri Lanka works with families to build decent, affordable homes which are usually 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 Habitat homeowners 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. About 600 families now have clean water after the completion of a water and sanitation project in the Central Province in 2017. The project was funded by the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission through Habitat Great Britain.
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 recently completed building 80 houses for families who were affected by landslides following May 2016’s Cyclone Roanu. With funding from the European Union, Habitat is building 2,455 houses with internally displaced persons in Kilinochchi, Batticaloa and Mullaitivu districts. In addition, 37 families who live in temporary shelters in a flood-prone community in Kalutara are partnering with Habitat Sri Lanka to construct their own homes.
Meet a Habitat family
When Cyclone Roanu struck in May 2016, Nadeeshani’s family lost their newly constructed house in Sabaragamuwa Province, in Western Sri Lanka. Their belongings including her three children’s school books and toys were all destroyed. Nadeeshani and her husband Dayarathne did not think they would ever own a home again. After partnering with Habitat Sri Lanka, however, they could build a decent home that they plan to expand with their own savings. Their daughter Kiruli, 7, said: “I love my new Habitat house. Most of all, I love having a garden to ride my bicycle and play with my new friends from next door.”