Permanent housing for people affected by conflict innorthern Sri Lanka

Project completed
A man points to his house under construction.
Thanks to the support of the SDC, war-affected returnees can rebuild their homes on their original plots of land after several years of displacement, like here in the village of Pooneryn, in the north of Sri Lanka. © SDC SOKAREE

Since the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009, housing has been an issue for thousands of displaced people and returnees in the north of the country. The SDC is providing permanent housing to over 5,000 families as well as flanking measures such as the reconstruction of essential community infrastructure and the restoration of livelihoods.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Sri Lanka
Humanitarian Assistance & DRR
Reconstruction and rehabilitation (till 2016)
Forced displacement (refugees, IDP, human trafficking)
Housing (till 2016)
01.08.2012 - 31.12.2015
CHF 5'900'000

The north of Sri Lanka, which was devastated by over three decades of conflict, is going through a stage of infrastructural development with massive investments from the national authorities and international donors. However, there are still families who remain displaced, living mainly with host families or in rented facilities. Even those who have resettled live on very little means. 

A survey conducted by the SDC has shown that two-thirds of households undertaking reconstruction work are experiencing debt issues. The specific needs of a vast number of female single-headed households were particularly highlighted. 

The SDC has therefore set itself the target of supporting the reinstallation of over 5,000 families in permanent housing up to the end of 2015, with a fifth of the beneficiaries being female-headed households. As part of an integral village rehabilitation intervention, the reconstruction of community infrastructure and the restoration of livelihoods are also priorities. 

4,000 houses already reconstructed

To date, 4,000 family homes with proper sanitation facilities have been built under an owner-driven “cash for housing” approach, which has enabled 18,000 people to have a permanent shelter again. A sum of 550,000 Sri Lankan rupees (approximately CHF 4,400) is provided to house owners in progress-based instalments for the reconstruction of a fully destroyed house. Smaller amounts of money are allocated for a partially destroyed house. The project is implemented directly by the SDC in close consultation with the authorities. 

The SDC also provides technical expertise to improve the quality of the housing construction and encourages the active participation of adult family members in maintaining the building in good condition for the long term. The distribution of a house maintenance manual contributes to the transfer of knowledge to communities. 

Moreover, in order to minimise the risk of indebtedness, SDC staff help beneficiaries with budget planning and provide advice for cost efficient construction solutions. The same support package had been successfully tested by the SDC during its “Cash for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction” programme for over 10,000 houses in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. 

Aiming for a durable recovery

The overall goal set by the SDC for its activities in northern Sri Lanka is to ensure a durable social and economic recovery of the communities affected the most by the past conflict. In practice, better living conditions and social cohesion mutually reinforce each other. 

The rehabilitation of community infrastructure is therefore also a priority of the SDC’s programme in northern Sri Lanka. Since 2009, 35 preschools, 5 schools, 77 common wells and 10 ponds providing safe and clean water for 5,500 persons have been rehabilitated. Through its continuous dialogue with the local and national authorities, the SDC advocates for the need of the most vulnerable populations to access basic community services such as electricity, water, transport and health.