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It's been six months since
Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war ended, but for many of those who were displaced
by the fighting, a chance to get back to normal life has been a long time
Having waged a secessionist war against the Government of Sri Lanka for the
nearly three decades, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, an
insurgent group designated as terrorist by the United States and 31 other
countries, finally surrendered on May 17th of this year.
According to the United Nations, the conflict cost upwards of 100,000 lives,
while 274,000 people were internally displaced and living in government relief
camps. And although the Sri Lankan government has pledged to get most of the
displaced out of the camps by the end of the year, the going has been slow.
Despite a significant acceleration of the release program in October, only
about one third of the refugees have been allowed to go home, leaving some
163,000 people still interned in camps.
The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, is one of
many governmental and international organizations providing aid and support for
Sri Lanka's Internally Displaced Persons, or IDPs. To help rehabilitate the
war-torn Northeast, USAID is partnering with local businesses to rebuild Sri Lanka's
infrastructure, help the government create jobs, and train at-risk youth,
including former combatants. USAID recently launched a 2-year pilot program
that will help as many as one thousand former fighters reintegrate into society
by providing them with supplies and equipment to start their own small
"This project will play an important role in helping post-conflict
communities return to normalcy by creating opportunities for former fighters to
get the training and support they need to start new lives and build secure
futures," said USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn. With this support,
these men and women have the chance to change their lives, set new goals, and
dream new dreams."
The United States firmly believes that the rapid release and safe and voluntary
return of all IDPs is a critical element of national reconciliation in Sri
Lanka. We will look for additional ways to support the Government of Sri Lanka
in this critical effort.