The end of Poonthoddam welfare centre in Vavuniya

Poonthoddam is one of the old welfare centres for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Vavuniya North District in Sri Lanka. For more than 20 years this place has been inhabited by IDPs, who were displaced due to the civil war in Sri Lanka. Over time many IDPs who found refuge in the welfare centre managed to leave again, while others took their place during a new wave of displacement. After the end of the civil war in 2009 most IDPs returned to their places of origin, but some of them had no place to return to and stayed on until 2016.

One of the last inhabited buildings


The IDPs still living in Poonthoddam are people who don't own land they can to return to, either because they never owned land (Estate Tamils) or they lost their land due to economic or political circumstances

A discussion with a UNHCR staff member
Some of the elderly IDPs who still live in Poonthoddam
One of the youngest IDPs in Poonthoddam
Youngsters from the welfare centre

Remains of one of the buildings

A positive development is that the remaining 115 IDP families will soon be able to move to permanent houses in one of the two new relocation sites, in Rasapuram or Sinnadampan in Vavuniya North. In Rasapuram 68 permanent houses are being constructed by the Gnanam Foundation with funding provided by Lycamobile (the IDPs therefore speak of "Lyca village"). All IDP families will receive 80 perches (0.5 acre) of land and a permanent house with a value of LKR 1 million (US$ 7000).

Rasapuram relocation site

The new houses under construction
The future community building currently used by the construction company

Rasapuram relocation site

Most IDPs in Poonthoddam are delighted that they will soon be able to leave the squalor conditions of the run-down welfare centre, although there is also some apprehension to move to a new place, further away from Vavuniya town, where many of them find work as daily labourers. Nonetheless they are confidently looking forward to the move, and already started collecting plants they want to move to their new plot in Rasapuram.

Plants waiting to be moved to Rasapuram relocation site.

Soon this last building of Poonthoddam will be empty and after 20 years of hosting IDPs be pulled down as the government wants to use the area for other purposes.

Created by Inge Colijn


Inge Colijn

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