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U.S. Government helps former fighters gain a new start in the East

U.S. Embassy Colombo Press Release

(October 30, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officially launched a new program to help former fighters in the East reintegrate into society, providing equipment and supplies to start their own small businesses. The Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, alias Pillaiyan, participated in the event in Batticaloa.

USAID, the development agency of the U.S. Government, is funding the two-year pilot project to facilitate the reintegration of 1000 former fighters in Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts. The project, implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is part of USAID's larger efforts to increase human security and stability in the Eastern Province by working with local communities as well as returning ex-combatants.

Rebecca Cohn, USAID Mission Director stated, "This project will play an important role in helping post-conflict communities return to normalcy by creating opportunities for former fighters to get the training and support they need to start new lives and build secure futures. With this support, these men and women have the chance to change their lives, set new goals, and dream new dreams."

The project provides information and counseling to former fighters, referring them to vocational training, psychosocial support and employment opportunities. Some participants, with appropriate experience and skill sets, also receive small grants to help them start their own business in their local communities.

Community members were very appreciative of this effort. One seamstress said, "We can benefit from these sewing machines because we can work at home." Another fisherman said, "Thanks to USAID for the training and for giving us an opportunity to improve our lives,"

To date, the project has registered nearly 400 former fighters, referring some to training and providing others with livelihood support. Profiling of an additional 395 ex-combatants is underway. The first batch of participants interviewed included 15 fishermen who received nets and fishing equipment, five farmers who received water pumps or irrigation systems, and two seamstresses who received sewing machines and fabric. These basic supplies will help the 22 participants start small businesses and increase their financial independence.

"IOM is pleased to partner with USAID in providing tools and training to help rebuild lives and restore livelihoods for post-conflict communities," said Mohammed Abdiker, Chief of Mission, IOM Sri Lanka. "The beneficiaries have embraced the program and are enthusiastic about receiving much-needed resources to share with their families - signs of hope for prosperity in the East," he added.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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