Sri Lanka
1.1 Sri Lanka Humanitarian Background

Disasters, Conflicts, and Migration

Natural Hazards



Comments / Details



Annual occurrence of widespread drought in Sri Lanka, much of the country (2/3 of country is a designated dry zone) experiences moderate-to-severe dry periods. In 2020 312,235 people across all 14 provinces were affected by drought from January to May (DMC).



As per UBC world seismic zoning, Sri Lanka is situated in seismic zone 0.



Epidemics include Dengue

Extreme Temperatures


Yes, heat and humidity in both dry and rainy season



Sri Lanka is ranked #6 on the 2020 Climate Risk Index. The flood risk profile is rising due to increasing impacts and frequency of hydro meteorological hazards during monsoon seasons (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery), 2017).  Flooding is one of the most prevalent disasters in Sri Lanka and the cause of most fatalities when external natural shocks occur. Major floods in Sri Lanka are associated with seasonal monsoons. Typically, during the Southwest monsoon season (May-September) the western, southern and Sabaragamuwa provinces are vulnerable to floods. During the Northeast monsoon (December-February) the eastern, northern and north-central provinces are prone to flooding.

Insect Infestation


In 2019 Anuradhapura district corn farmers were affected by an insect infestation of Fall Armyworms damaging agricultural yields.



Landslides have become common during the monsoon season in Sri Lanka, as land has been heavily deforested to grow export crops like tea and rubber. In May 2017, a significant landslide killed more than 100 people in the centre of the island.

Volcanic Eruptions


High Waves / Surges


The most recent Tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2004, it caused widespread destruction around the coastal belts of Sri Lanka, where more than 35,000 people lost their lives, and thousands were left homeless. Think Hazard classifies the tsunami hazard risk as medium.  



High Winds


Vulnerable to cyclones and storms due to its position near the confluence of the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Cyclone storm Raonu impacted Sri Lanka in 2016 causing major flooding and over 200 deaths more recently in 2020 25,000 people were displaced due to storms which often cause significant damage due to landslides and flooding.

Other Comments


Man-Made Issues

Civil Strife


In May 18, 2009, Colombo declared the end of the 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers.

International Conflict


Internally Displaced Persons


Seasonal natural hazards often cause temporary displacement only.

Refugees Present


Landmines / UXO (unexploded ordnance) Present


The National Mine Action Strategy 2016-2020 targets a mine free Sri Lanka in 2020. Updated agreements now target a 2025 mine free Sri Lanka.

Other Comments

For a more detailed database on disasters by country, please see the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters.

Seasonal Effects on Logistics Capacities

Seasonal Effects on Transport

Transport Type

Time Frame

Comments / Details

Primary Road Transport

From (May-July) and (October-December)

Excessive rains may significantly increase travel time on highways and major roads.

Secondary Road Transport

Y From (May-July) and (October-December)

Excessive rains may damage secondary roads to the degree of impassability.

Rail Transport

From (May-July) and (October-December)

Rains often negatively impact the punctuality of trains with trains tracks prone to landslides during the monsoon seasons.

Air Transport

From (May-July) and (October-December)

While air transport may be grounded during storm, most air transport options resume quickly and can be used to transport goods in affected areas.

Waterway Transport


Road transportation is the most effective and widely used form of transportation for commercial goods in Sri Lanka. Road networks connect all districts in Sri Lanka. Material can now be delivered in any part of Sri Lanka with 12 hrs by road transport.

Seasonal Effects on Storage and Handling

Activity Type

Time Frame

Comments / Details



The GoSL (Government of Sri Lanka) Food Commissioner’s Department manages the majority of storage units across the country. Across Sri Lanka, there is very limited public storage facilities to accommodate storage of goods, especially for perishable items. Private storage facilities (Temperature Controlled Warehousing) are available.

Over the monsoon season extra precautions are required to avoid water damage to commodities. During the hot season commodities can be spoiled due to high temperatures or/and high humidity.



There are no reported seasonal effects on commodity handling activities, other than loading and offloading exercises during heavy monsoon rains, which can persist for two to three days uninterrupted.


There is a potential need to pre-stock commodities due to potential constraints of transport and handling operations due to rain or non-availability of transport.

There is significant wastage of heat sensitive commodities due to lack of temperature-controlled warehouses.

Capacity and Contacts for In-Country Emergency Response


Sri Lanka’s preparedness and response to disasters are guided by the Disaster Management Act (2005), which is the legal basis of the National Policy on Disaster Management (2013). The Disaster Management Act provides inter alia for the establishment of the National Council for Disaster Management (NCDM) and the Disaster Management Center (DMC); preparation of disaster management plans and emergency operations plans (including the National Emergency Operations Plan); declaration of a state of disaster by the President; and awards of compensation. Meanwhile, the National Policy on Disaster Management articulates the agreed overarching principles and preferred outcomes for disaster management in Sri Lanka, including policy directives to reduce human and economic impacts of disasters, as well as coordination mechanisms.

Overall disaster management is overseen by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) within the Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management State Ministry since August 2020. The State Ministry oversees its four institutions: DMC, Department of Meteorology, National Building Research Organization (NBRO) and the National Disaster Relief Services Center (NDRSC).

Though these organizations are fully functional and equipped with the necessary technical and financial resources for efficient emergency preparedness, response (civil - military) and coordination; overlap of agency mandates, lack of inter-agency coordination and certain technical capacity gaps hinder effective emergency response planning and implementation at national and sub-national level.

To address some of these technical gaps, capacity strengthening of the DM agencies and national and sub-national levels is being funded by GoSL (Government of Sri Lanka), USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) to facilitate emergency preparedness and improve coordination between the various stakeholders, particularly the military, private sector and humanitarian sector, including the United Nations and international and national Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

For more information on government contact details, please see the following link: 4.1 Government Contact List.

Agencies and Ministries with disaster management role and responsibilities

GoSL Ministries and Departments 

Function/ responsibilities

Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Responsible to communicate and share information with foreign embassies, UN and international NGOs. Confirmation of projects under the external budget/aid, Facilitate/ issue of emergency visas.

(State) Ministry of Defense

The Ministry of Defense has oversight of the Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management State Ministry. The State Ministry oversees its four institutions: All District and Divisional Secretariats, Disaster Management Centre (DMC), Department of Meteorology, National Building Research Organization (NBRO) and the National Disaster Relief Services Centre (NDRSC). 

The Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) perform an integral role in disaster management and response: by maintaining security, search and rescue, evacuation of victims, setup of shelters for IDPs (internally displaced persons), dead body management, support of emergency medical care, debris removal and clearing of roads and distribution of relief goods by road, water and air. 

Focal point of the security forces is permanently deployed at DMC for emergency coordination. 

Disaster Management Council

This is an Apex body for the disaster management in Sri Lanka which take policy decisions on disaster management and oversees implementation of the 2005 Disaster Management Act.

Disaster Management Centre

DMC is a coordination and implementation arm for the national council.

Emergency coordination at national and Sub-national levels,  72hr needs assessment & review of eligible beneficiaries, strategic contingency planning, coordination of Relief, Monitoring & Evaluation.

Main focal point of the HCT during emergencies.

Department of Meteorology

Weather Forecasting and aviation forecast for international and domestic flight, provide early warning for weather related hazards and tsunami early warning conduct research on weather, climate and climate change.

National Disaster Relief Services Centre

Planning and implementation of relief management activities (Event specific contingency planning with local level stakeholders, Identification of beneficiaries, disaster response to populations affected by disaster).

National Building Research Organisation

NBRO is the agency providing advice and mapping on landslide risk management through multiple activities such as conduct awareness, DRR activities, research and early warning.

Ministry of Finance 

Responsibilities in relation to macro-economic policies, annual budget and Appropriation Acts, finance and insurance activities, international financial cooperation and directing social security and economic development activities.

Department of Samurdhi Development

This department engaged on social safety net which addresses  poverty, ensure food security at the household level, promote saving habits among low-income family, ensure social equality, to provide social security to poor and micro financing.

Ministry of Finance, Partnership Management Secretariat


The PMS (Project Management System) provides coordination with all line agencies, donors, World Food Programme, partners and related stake holders on national policies, decisions of the government on policy changes, project approvals, funds transfers, reports and ensure that the projects are implemented according to the LOU (Letter of Understanding).

Ministry of Agriculture

This ministry support during post disaster to provide input subsidies to the affected farmers. 

Food Commissioner’s Department 

Provide logistics support 

Ministry of Health


Providing policy guidance to health, hygienic, medicine treatment, establish special clinics through the Department of Health Services based on demand, ensuring physical, mental, social wellness and distribution of nutritious supplements, conduct health awareness, health hazard preventive measures etc. Monitoring the food quality.

Ministry of Education

Provide policy guidance to use the school infra structure during the emergencies.

Ministry of Foreign

Based on the scale of emergency/disaster, the ministry providing policy guidance in relation to the subject of Foreign, implementation of projects under the external budget/aid, Facilitate for issue of visas etc.

District/Divisional Secretariat

District and divisional coordination and take lead role in implementation of the policy guidance provided by the Government.  

Humanitarian Community

In Sri Lanka, the Sector system is activated by the UN Resident Coordinator Office (RCO). The RCO and WFP are responsible for preparedness and response contingency planning and coordination between UN and Government. The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is established and chaired by the UN Resident Coordinator, which is composed of representatives from UN agencies, INGOs (International Non-Governmental Organisations) and not- for-profit organisations.   

For more information on humanitarian agency contact details, please see the following link: 4.2 Humanitarian Agency Contact List.

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