Sri Lanka: Delivering Wheelchairs to Persons with Disabilities in Flood-Affected Areas

Persons with Disabilities Forced to Live Under Difficult Circumstances Due to the Civil War and Floods

From the end of 2010 to the beginning of 2011, approximately 1,000,000 people have been affected by the massive flooding in eastern Sri Lanka. AAR JAPAN dispatched an emergency support team from its Tokyo Headquarters office and distributed food and essential non-food items to a total of approximately 1,600 families.

Our emergency assistance activities have ended, but the circumstances of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in eastern Sri Lanka became clear in our assessment. In this region, there are many PWDs that resulted from receiving injuries during the long-lasting years of civil war. Social welfare services are not sufficient to support these individuals, and there is not enough assistive equipment like wheelchairs being supplied.  In addition, many PWDs have always had low socioeconomic statuses due to their limited opportunities in the workforce, and it is a major challenge for them to rebuild their lives on their own in disastrous situations like that of the recent flooding.

In response to their needs, AAR JAPAN decided to distribute assistive equipment such as wheelchairs and walking sticks to PWDs in this region, and began its assessment activities in August in collaboration with SLFRD (Sri Lanka Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled), a local NGO that supports PWDs. Four areas were targeted for distribution: Dehiattakandiya and Pothuvil Divisional Secretariats in Ampara District, and Kantalai and Kinniya Divisional Secretariats in Trincomalee District of the Eastern Province. In September of 2011, we delivered 36 wheelchairs, 4 wheelchairs for children, 10 hand-pedaled tricycles, 20 walking sticks, 1 walker, and 1 mattress, reaching out to a total of 72 beneficiaries. Among them, there were many who had lost their homes and valuables in the floods, but they expressed joy in having the potential to go to school or return to work.

“I can send my child to school. Thank you so much for the lovely tricycle.”

K. Gamini says, “It has been very difficult replacing my children’s school supplies that were lost in the floods."
K. Gamini (42 years old) has had trouble walking since childhood because of polio. He had relied on the use of a walking stick but mobility had become an issue in recent years. He has a wife and 3 children, but his home was damaged in the floods and his children’s school supplies were lost. As he sells tea leaves and grains to make a living, he conveyed his happiness in how much the tricycle is going to make his work a lot easier. He said to us, “I can take my children to school on the tricycle. I love it. I would like to thank AAR JAPAN and its supporters from the bottom of my heart.”

J. Rinnoya tells us that she plans to return to school using her new wheelchair.
J. Rinnoya is a 21 year-old woman living in Pothuvil Divisional Secretariat. Her lower limbs have limited movement also due to polio. In tears, she shared with us her story of how she continued schooling until junior high school, but decided to quit because of the emotional pain she had had to endure whenever she fell. With the new wheelchair that she received, she enthusiastically told us that she would like to restart her studies and eventually attend university.

K. A. Prabath Niroshan lost both of his legs during the civil war.
K. A. Prabath Niroshan is a 24 year-old living in Kantalai Divisional Secretariat. He lost both of his legs during the civil war. About 3 years ago, he was assaulted by a group of Tamils asserting their independence and was abandoned on a railroad track in an unconscious state. He regained consciousness by the sound of the train approaching and tried to move his body, but was unable to escape quickly enough and lost his legs.

With the hand-pedaled tricycle that AAR JAPAN provided him, he immediately began his work as a vendor selling lottery tickets. Since his father’s plantation was totally wiped out in the flooding, he told us that he would like to support his father with the income from selling lottery tickets. His dream is to save enough money to marry his girlfriend whom he had been together with even before the tragic accident.

Sanae HAYASHI, AAR Tokyo office
Worked at a private company after graduating university. Studied anthropology at graduate school in England and worked at an international organization before joining AAR JAPAN. Has taken responsibility for projects in Sri Lanka and Myanmar (Burma), and has principally been in charge of projects in Myanmar at the Tokyo office since June 2010. (Born in Tochigi Prefecture)