Durable rehabilitation

Switzerland contributes to the resettlement process in northern Sri Lanka with a holistic village process focussing not only on housing needs, but integrates infrastructure components like access to safe water, construction of schools, preschools, community buildings, reforestation, access to services and livelihood support. 
This ‘village approach’ has been proven a very successful tool in supporting the resettlement process. SDC is currently implementing programmes to support the construction of houses, communal infrastructure and in addition support returnees with livelihood components in 22 GN Divisions in the districts of Jaffna and Kilinochchi.

Cash for Housing

In the SDC applied owner driven house reconstruction approach, necessary funds are provided for the reconstruction of fully or partially destroyed houses. House owners are given progress-based instalments to rebuild their houses according to their own needs, requirements and wishes. Furthermore, technical expertise is provided to increase both efficiency and effectiveness of the construction process. The programme is implemented by SDC in close collaboration with relevant local authorities, namely the District Secretary (DS) and the Grama Sevaka (GS) for the housing and the Ministry of Education for the school component.

While the chosen project approach is strictly owner driven, SDC engineers and technical officers monitor the progress of the project. In addition to technical expert support, SDC facilitates to organize bulk orders and deliveries of construction material to keep costs low and efficiency high. Each house is equipped with a separate individual toilet connected to a sceptic tank.

Besides the house, sanitation and wash facilities (septic tank, latrines and wells) are an integral part of the programme. Access to clean drinking water is ensured either by a grant for the construction of an individual well or with the provision of common wells.


Besides demining, housing, and livelihood development, infrastructure is of dire importance for the returning population. Village assessments give a clear picture about the composition of the population, the history of displacement and a first determination of immediate needs. The infrastructure needs have to be constantly revised during the return process. Allocation of wells, schools and preschools, community buildings and the access to services are elaborated jointly with the village based committees. Therefore, community infrastructure is usually implemented through local community based organizations such as rural development societies.

SDC provides community infrastructure elements according to need and feasibility. Infrastructure projects include common wells, community halls, pre-schools, lavatories, pond rehabilitations and culverts.

  • First priority under the infrastructure component is access to safe water for the returnees. Usually, existing common wells can be cleaned and rehabilitated. In a second step, new wells can be allocated in order to cover the needs for the population. The "Woman Rural Development Society (WRDS)" is leading this process, as wells have to be built in safe places and in short distance to the housing plots. Good water quality is also needed for the construction of the houses.
  • The availability of schools and access to education is one of the key elements for a successful return process. School reconstruction begins immediately after the division is opened for resettlement. This is in collaboration with the Education Department and the School Works Branches. The reconstruction of the schools gives the opportunity to upgrade the premises to the standards of the new education system (library, science room, IT-facilities, teacher quarters). In dry areas, SDC is promoting rain water harvesting systems. Maintenance, however, remains a big issue. The constitution and training of "school development societies" and "old boy’s societies" is an important part to ensure proper maintenance of the buildings.
  • Preschools are allocated close to the hamlets of the villages or if possible even integrated into schools. Again, a close collaboration with the "Rural Development Committee" and the "Woman Rural Development Committee" is essential. In addition, SDC plans to work in close collaboration with "Save the Children" to guarantee long term sustainability (Teacher training, equipment, early child development, maintenance). Some of the preschool constructions are built during the practical training by mason trainees (vocational training/small scale business development).
  • Community centres/libraries/common halls are important for the development of villages and communities. They are an important turntable for the activities of village based organisations and the daily village life. In remote areas, a consultation room is integrated in the buildings to allow midwifes to meet pregnant or lactating women for consultations.


Promoting livelihood opportunities is a prominent and integral component of the holistic approach of SDC’s Cash for Housing Programme. Livelihood support is essential for families to regain their income capacities and is an important step to find the way back to a live in normalcy.

To this end, SDC works in collaboration with its partner Swiss Labour Assistance (SAH) to implement a range of livelihood enhancing activities in support of the entire village communities. Therewith, the most vulnerable families, including landless families, benefit from cash grants to re-establish livelihoods that see a fast economic return like paddy cultivation and storage, grocery shops, cash crops, sewing/tailoring service, home gardening, dry fish making and mechanic repair works.