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    The living situation of refugees, asylumseekers and IDPís in Armenia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka: Millennium development indicators and coping strategies

    Sri Lanka Country Report prepared by IHP

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      Download from UNHCR web site (External site)
     
    Dr. Ravi P. Rannan-Eliya, Dr.Reggie Perera
    1 Sep 2006

    Abstract: As part of a global study examining the conditions and progress towards the MDGs in IDP populations, a survey was conducted of the IDP population in Sri Lanka. This survey examines the conditions faced by conflict-related IDPs in Sri Lanka, in the districts of Mannar, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee. Other districts in which there are sizeable numbers of conflict-related IDPs were not surveyed. The survey also excluded half the IDPs in the country, whose displacement was the result of the December 2004 tsunami, many of whom were doubly displaced as a result of the conflict and the more recent tsunami. To provide a comparison with an appropriate group, the survey also sampled non-IDP households living next to the surveyed IDP communities or households. The original target for the survey was a total of 1,500 households, but owing to operational difficulties and a worsening security situation, only 1,064 households were eventually surveyed, comprising 873 IDP households and 191 non-IDP households. IDP households have a similar demographic structure to those of the non-IDP population, although the percentage of households who have children is modestly greater, and overall household size is larger. In terms of their displacement, the history of IDP households in all districts reflects the multiple waves of displacement that have occurred in the past two decades. Many in Mannar, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa come from afar afield as Jaffna and Vavuniya, whilst most of the rest are internally displaced within their own districts. Most IDPs have been separated from their original homes for more than five years, and most first fled more than 15 years ago. Only a small minority of IDPs desire to return to their original homes, and overall very few intend to do so, even in the longer term. In terms of living conditions, IDPs are in most respects worse off than the average Sri Lankan household, and worse off than the typical residents of the districts and communities they now find themselves in. It was not possible to reliably assess the overall income level of the surveyed households, but data collected on ownership of household assets indicates that, whilst the non-IDP households surveyed are commonly drawn from the second and third poorest income quintiles in the country, IDPs are mostly concentrated in the poorest quintiles. IDPs, therefore, typically live below the national poverty line. Their generally precarious economic situation is reflected in their employment conditions Ė IDPs tend to be as likely to work as non-IDPs, but more of them do not participate in the workforce owing to household responsibilities and the need to care for other family members, and possibly because of discouragement at finding work if they search for it. The poorer economic status of IDP households is also reflected in lower rates of home ownership in both urban and rural areas, more inferior housing materials being used in their homes and worse than average access to improved sanitation and water supplies. Nutritional and anthropometric indicators offer a better and less potentially unbiased measure of overall household status than direct questions concerning income. When statistics such as stunting and wasting in children are examined, the survey reveals that the non-IDP households are probably modestly worse off than the national average, but that the IDP children do even worse, with higher levels of stunting and wasting. Access to education for IDPs appears to be relatively high and comparable with their non-IDP neighbours, with access even better in some respects. Primary school enrolment rates are uniformly high and similar to national levels, but it was found that literacy rates amongst young adults was lower than the national average, reflecting perhaps a legacy of disrupted schooling in previous years as a result of the conflict. HPRA with Institute for Health Policy 1st September 2006 11 Whilst the levels of coverage with basic health services as immunization are high in the IDP population at over 80%, the average levels are still 10-15% lower than in the non-IDP population surveyed. With respect to access to maternal services, similarly access was also generally high for IDPs, with IDP mothers reporting high levels of access to antenatal care and to skilled attendance at child birth, but with some indications that they did slightly worse than the non-IDP mothers, with fewer IDPs than non-IDPs accessing antenatal care from doctors, and 4% of IDP mothers giving birth at home (compared with 1-2% nationally), and 8% of births being attended by traditional birth attendants (compared with 1-2% nationally). Importantly, it should be noted that the high levels of access to basic services was due almost exclusively to provision by the government, as the public sector accounted for almost all maternal and antenatal care received by IDPs. Consistent with the picture of good access to healthcare, IDPs appear to have similar levels of access to family planning services as non-IDPs, and in fact use of condoms was higher than in non-IDPs. Compared with the results of the DHS 2000, both the IDP and non-IDPs surveyed the past six years have been successfully generally, and also especially in reaching the IDP populations, who would be expected to more vulnerable in this respect owing to their situation. When asked questions about their general vulnerability and ability to access services, both IDPs and non-IDPs reported a significant level of problems, but these were generally higher in the case of non-IDPs. For example, the percentages of IDP households reporting problems in accessing healthcare (27%), education (20%), obtaining official documents (13%), access to places of worship (19%) and ability to vote (15%) are generally half or double as much as that for non-IDPs. In summary, the general picture that emerges from this study is that most IDPs have typically been in this state for many years, but have been living in their current places of residence for a number of years. Most do not want to return to their original homes for whatever reasons, but continue to live in conditions of precariousness and vulnerability, and most are essentially below the poverty line. On the positive side, it was found that despite their problems, access to government-provided health and education services was generally high, and often comparable to non-IDPs. More significant problems and disparities are found elsewhere, chiefly in areas related to normal living such as freedom from threats and dealings with the authorities.


     

     

     

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