The American Jewish Joint Distribution is providing emergency aid to victims of the devastating flooding and mudslides that killed hundreds of people and displacing hundreds of thousands more in Sri Lanka this week.This is the worst natural disaster to hit the island nation since the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The JDC is already familiar with the region, having then established a disaster-management unit together with Sarvodaya, a local Buddhist- inspired humanitarian organization.The organizations have since responded to dozens of disasters in Sri Lanka.This week, they deployed a first-responder unit to provide food, water and other emergency aid in Sri Lanka’s five hardest- hit districts, including Galle and Kalutara on the coast.
The first responders are reaching beleaguered Sri Lankans by road and where necessary by boat.“We mourn the loss of life in Sri Lanka and are working to ensure that desperately needed assistance is delivered to survivors who have lost so much in this disaster,” JDC CEO David M. Schizer said. Referencing the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot that was celebrated earlier this week, during which Jews commemorate receiving the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai, Schizer said: “We honor our tradition and its value for human life by joining with our Sri Lankan partners to save lives and carry forward a shared commitment to compassion in the face of adversity.”JDC’s disaster-relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors.The Sarvodaya–JDC disaster-management unit is made up of a fully equipped, trained team of first responders and was created to provide quick and efficient responses to crises in a country regularly hit by natural disasters.The JDC coordinates its relief activities with local and international partners, including the US Department of State, USAID, the United Nations and the Israeli government.On Tuesday, Ambassador of Israel to India and Sri Lanka Daniel Carmon delivered disaster-relief supplies to Colombo’s Foreign Ministry, along with a letter from President Reuven Rivlin to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, expressing Israel’s solidarity with the Sri Lankan people. The supplies included power generators, drinking water and high-power light sources.
Sri Lanka carries out flood recovery and clean-up operations (credit: REUTERS)