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Outgoing envoy reviews EU contributions

2013 Jun 26

Education was a primary concern of the European Union, as it was the soul of modern societies, said EU Ambassador/Head of Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Bernard Savage.

He made this observation following his recent visit to the EU funded projects in Ampara, Batticaloa and Polonnaruwa. Ensuring that all children were enrolled in school and complete their studies was an essential necessity for the fulfilment of their potential, he added. "To this end, over the last ten years the EU in Sri Lanka has built and rehabilitated 200 schools, trained nearly 2,000 teachers and supported countless parents and caregivers so that their children can improve literacy."

Savage, who will be completing his term as Ambassador and head of the EU Delegation in Sri Lanka at the end of August this year, took the opportunity to observe and review the positive contributions made by the EU to the people of Sri Lanka over the past few years.

The nature of the projects visited indicated the EU’s shift from humanitarian aid and rehabilitation to sustainability in keeping with national priorities, the ambassador said. "The EU, as one of Sri Lanka’s long standing partners, has allocated Rs. 94 billion in development and humanitarian assistance, all in the form of grants except Rs. 25.5 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB) which was in the form of loans.

"More than 8,000 micro, small and medium enterprises have been assisted with business development services by the EU while nearly 20,000 houses would be built in the North and East by 2015. Already 12,000 houses have been built."

The Ambassador also pointed out that they were aware of the harsh effects of climate change on livelihood and income.

He said he was confident that through EU initiatives, fostering sound natural resource and environmental management, food and income security in Sri Lanka will be enhanced and sustained. "Personally, I see Sri Lanka as an excellent tourist destination. The most important factor is the huge potential for tourist development."

The variety of ethnicity, religions, cultures and environment was one of the plus points in attracting more tourists, Ambassador Savage said.

The projects visited mainly focused on sectors such as agriculture, livelihoods, environment, education, health, housing etc. Ambassador Savage held several discussions with local government officials, project partners, beneficiaries and communities. Ambassador Savage was accompanied by several members from the EU office as well as media personnel.

The EU will fund the construction of 4,000 houses. This project which is partnered with UN-Habitat is the fourth housing construction programme supported by the EU since 2006. By 2015, the EU will have financially assisted to rebuild permanent houses for about 20,000 families in North and East Sri Lanka.

The renovated multipurpose building and rehabilitated irrigation channel would serve over 300 resettled families in Weligahakandiya village and neighbouring villages to improve their standard of living. The EU has granted more than nine million rupees to ZOA for the rehabilitation of those facilities.

Speaking at the inauguration, Ambassador Savage said: "EU is pleased to note that this livelihood and community infrastructure project will benefit over 4,700 households to increase their productivity and income in the long term".

More than 12,000 farmers in Mandapathaddi, Batticaloa would benefit in their day to day activities with the opening of the agricultural infrastructures.

"During the conflict, many paddy stores in that area were destroyed. Due to the lack of storage facilities paddy farmers were compelled to sell their products as soon as they were harvested. The storage facility will assist farmers to store paddy for longer periods and thereby enable them to get a better price for their produce.

"The aim of this project implemented by OXFAM is to provide access to infrastructure, improvement of livelihoods, increase access to water and sanitation facilities, and improve social protection among communities in the North and East Provinces," he said.

The EU also funded a total of 19 food processing centres in the Vavuniya and Polonnaruwa Districts. These hubs fill an important gap in the market chain which benefits more than 2,000 conflict affected families who lack access to central market places and product processing centres.

"Those centres will add value and increase incomes for families, notably through solar drying, bottling and packaging of agricultural products," he said. (IN)

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