Shelter Support to Conflict Affected IDPs in the North of Sri Lanka

Funded by: AusAID – Government of Australia; US $9.34 million (Aus $10 Million)

Partners: Government of Sri Lanka, Local Authorities and, communities


  • Kilinochchi
  • Mullaitivu
  • Vavuniya


Three decades of civil war displaced more than two million people from northern and eastern Sri Lanka. The final stages of the war saw intense fighting in the north and heavy damage to a wide range of infrastructure, particularly houses, water, public buildings, health and education facilities. Early estimates suggested that 200,000 to 230,000 houses had been damaged or destroyed as a result of the years of fighting.

By October 2009, there were at least 380,000 IDPs, and the majority of these were in camps in Vavuniya. In November 2009, the Government began an accelerated resettlement Programme to enable people to return home, or at least to their districts of origin. Through this intervention, 160,000 people left IDP camps and headed towards their villages.

UN‐HABITAT, having recognized the urgent need to facilitate the IDPs return to habitable homes, initiated a dialogue with AusAID who in turn responded by contributing 9.34 million USD (10 Million Aus) towards the reconstruction and repair of damaged houses.

Through a long standing tradition of cooperation between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and its donor partners, UN-Habitat has pioneered innovative approaches in community housing and infrastructure projects. Under the Owner Driven Housing Programme, UN-Habitat assisted over 10,000 tsunami families in all disaster affected districts. Another 40,000 people were assisted through the Rebuilding Communities in North East Sri Lanka Project.

The Project

The project focused on supporting families to make damaged houses habitable as soon as possible. Initial assessments confirmed that while many houses have been destroyed, many others remained standing, often without roofs, windows or doors. Rather than invest resources on temporary or transitional shelter arrangements, UN‐HABITAT moved directly to a sustainable and durable housing solution for the vulnerable families in over 40 villages in the Districts of Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Killinochchi.

Project Approach

The project has reached 2,675 vulnerable families through provision of grant payments and technical support to repair their damaged houses and bringing them back in to use. Another 1,110 vulnerable families have benefited from grant payments and technical support to fully reconstruct their destroyed homes (3,785 in total). Vulnerable families such as female headed households were identified and given a higher priority in the beneficiary selection process.

Using a “home owner driven” approach, the project assisted families to actively take charge of their own recovery. The families were responsible for the planning, implementation and monitoring of their own progress. Their early involvement in the process ensured that the end result was a “home” that reflected their own aspirations. The process also helped to revive the local economy. By procuring materials and labour locally the funds remained within the communities, while the families saved money by contributing their labour towards the construction process.

Technical assistance and guidance for the reconstruction was provided to all beneficiary families by field-based UN-Habitat teams. As many families had difficulty in proving their ownership of land due to the destruction or loss of documents, assistance was provided to obtain security of tenure through consultation with local authorities.

The project enhanced human security and protection for the affected families by reinforcing human dignity through housing, opportunities for livelihoods, environmental safety and enhanced quality of life particularly for women and children.

Main Activities

  • Community development activities for resource mobilization
  • Authenticated and verified beneficiary selection processes
  • Supported communities with the identification of the most vulnerable families.
  • Supported communities to repair damaged housing
  • Supported vulnerable families with reconstruction activities
  • Supported families to repair and reconstruct toilets and water supply
  • Provided technical assistance on reconstruction activities
  • Supported land documentation activities
  • Employed returning IDPs in construction activities
  • Developed the skills of women in construction related activities
  • Coordination with Government, Local Authorities and other implementing agencies
  • Supported environmental protection activities

Key Outputs

  • 3,785 families, with special focus on vulnerable families, received support to reconstruct/repair their houses.
  • Approximately 80 housing construction groups are active in effectively contributing to community development activities
  • Vulnerable families were assisted to obtain security of tenure through support with applications and land administration processes.