Nov 14 (IRIN) SELVANAGAR- Rajina Mary, a 38-year-old widow and mother of four looks at her new home in Sri Lanka’s northern former conflict zone as if admiring a long-lost relative. But in reality, the home’s mostly unplastered walls bruise anyone who leans on them too hard
and there are large holes in the walls for non-existent windows and doors; the floor is cemented only in the living area.
No one wants to stay indoors between mid-morning and late-afternoon because the house heats up like a furnace due to asbestos roofing sheets.
"I need a ceiling," Mary told IRIN without removing her gaze from the home's skeleton. But she is still proud, knowing that she is an exception among 135,000 returnee families to be in any type ofpermanent housing - even if unfinished. "It may not be much, but it is my house. My new house."
In neighbouring Ambankulam village, Maheswari Selvadorai, 39, ran out of money to finish her home, which her family started building in 2009 after they left a camp for displaced persons. Her family now retreats behind the unfinished home to a shed with tin roofing and mud walls, where they feel safer. "The doors and windows are still not secure, so we sleep in the old house," Maheswari said.
For these two women and their families, the two-and-a-half years it took them to get into permanent housing was a relatively short period. Tens of thousands of other families are facing an indefinite wait, say aid workers.
Donors and the government have pledged to build or repair a total of around 78,000 homes, of which the Indian government is funding 43,000. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) estimates war returnees need 170,000 homes.
For homes financed by the Indian government future occupants receive US$3,800 in instalments, based on their construction progress.
The spokesperson of the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka, Birender Yadav, told IRIN the goal is to build 10,000 homes by August 2013.
But this still leaves tens of thousands in need of housing, said Mahesh Gunasekera, IFRC's senior programme coordinator for northern Sri Lanka, which is overseeing 20,000 new housing constructions, the most of any group working in the north. "I have not come across a major project with this level of funding difficulties."
Gunasekera, who has worked on similar projects in Pakistan, Sudan and Nepal, calculated 129,000 homes must be constructed anew, while another 41,000 need "extensive" repairs.
Funding trends do not bode well for housing, he added. "Even if we feel that we can secure funding for 100,000 units, we are still left with a caseload of 70,000."