Expanded Support for Durable Resettlement and Reintegration in Sri Lanka
Despite the passage of 12 years since the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, complete resettlement of conflict displaced families is yet to be completed. Over 6,600 acres of land remain to be released. Returnees remain in need of basics such as shelter, essential infrastructure, livelihoods, and psychosocial support against a background of deteriorating human rights and heightened economic vulnerability following the COVID global pandemic. Subsequently, the psychological strain has been observed higher on children and adolescents. The successful previous collaboration between UNDP and UNICEF to assist resettled families with EU funding (2017-2019) effectively addressed the challenges among children and adolescents. They were provided with appropriate assistance to adapt to the new environment. The initiative will further scale up the ongoing provision of essential services to meet the needs and demands of returnee families to newly resettled areas of 3 districts (Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu).
Reintegration has been challenging for people who returned during the COVID-19 crisis. The crisis has exacerbated employment and livelihood challenges and caused distress among refugee returnees, specifically returnees from Tamil Nadu residing in Jaffna district. These families are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues due to their living conditions, discrimination, exclusion from the community, and lack of support systems. There is also a lack of awareness of the importance of mental health and psychosocial services and lack of privacy and confidentiality in receiving these services which discourage them from using such support services. Based on a situational analysis and information from the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, the prime challenges for children in the targeted divisions are poor attendance in online schooling, school dropouts, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, inadequate facilities to attend school and lack of educational tools, child marriages, teen pregnancy and mental health issues. Mental health professionals report that the number of psychosocial issues in the targeted divisions has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, making psychosocial support services much more critical in ensuring the well-being of children and adolescents in the targeted divisions.
As part of a joint project with UNDP and UN Women, UNICEF will strengthen the capacity of the mental health and psychosocial support system from the divisional to village level, with targeted outreach support to the resettled communities. UNICEF will partner with Shanthiham to:
- Reduce risks to children's safety and emotional well-being while promoting an environment conducive to positive development, effective coping, and resilience
- Promote children's holistic development and age-appropriate physical, cognitive, and emotional competencies
- Foster a secure and stable environment for children
- Strengthen family and community caregiving structures for children
- Support children's and youth's voice and full participation in all phases of programming
- Strengthen social service networks and local networks that enable child protection, care, and well-being, such as women's groups or religious networks.
This will be achieved by i) establishing and strengthening community-based psychosocial services, including befriending, in the targeted communities; ii) strengthening multi-stakeholder coordination to enhance service provision from provincial to village level; and iii) providing counselling services and referrals to mental health professionals and other related services. This will directly benefit approximately 1,200 children and indirectly approximately 10,000 children from Mullaitivu and 6,000 children from Kilinochchi aged from 10-18 years.