Sri Lankans experienced yet again the impact of floods in the aftermath of, what has been called the worst torrential rain since 2003. Over half a million people have been affected in 54 districts of the country. In its latest report published on 04.06.2017, the Disaster Management Center of Sri Lanka has reported that due to the flood and landslide conditions caused by incessant rains across Sri Lanka, 717,622 People belonging to 184,265 families were affected in 15 Districts with the current death toll reaching 212, and more than 79 people still reported missing.
Island wide rescue operations and relief campaigns have been carried out uniting people beyond race, caste and language barriers. However, while these actions remind us of the intrinsic compassion and benevolence of humanity, there remains a forgotten portion of victims, to whom this kindness is not always extended. We often tend to overlook the wellbeing of our voiceless friends- the animals that surround us, be it the much adored pet at home or the stray animals that roam the streets. Leaving them behind to be victimized by disaster- die or suffer injuries without treatment, contradicts the humanity we believe in.
While animal lovers and animal welfare communities have taken noteworthy action in the form of rescue efforts and rehabilitation of animals in many areas, these efforts need to be carried out in a more coordinated and expanded manner. Given the increased frequency with which we are experiencing disasters in Sri Lanka, the need for such measures ensuring the welfare of animals in disaster and post disaster situations are more urgent than ever.
Animals are more vulnerable to disasters than humans and the number of animal casualties needs to be accounted for. In the disasters such as the floods that we experienced, the wellbeing of household pets are overlooked as they are often left chained or caged depriving them of means to escape and survive disaster conditions. Many posts and pictures of the disaster struck areas depict animals stranded without means of escape. We as individuals could do our part in ensuring the welfare of animals in disaster contexts.
Possible actions you can take:
- Be a responsible pet owner- while being conscious of saving your own self, make sure you safeguard the wellbeing of your pets either by removing them from disaster situations by ensuring that they are unencumbered and are able to flee in case of impending danger
- Do not abandon animals- have carriers or transportation means for your pets on hand
- Vaccinate animals to prevent the spread of diseases
- Put up notices if animals are left behind and are in need of rescuing
- In case of urgent evacuation, make sure the animals are left with enough food and water to last
- Provide a way to trace the animals you live with if they become lost
- Be vigilant of any animals that are in need of rescuing
- Alert authorities in case of rescue of wild animals
- Notify animal rescue organizations if you need help evacuating animals
Apart from these measures action needs to be taken to incorporate the wellbeing of animals in community level planning. In the face of escalating disaster incidences in Sri Lanka, we need to ensure that adaptation measures and disaster risk reduction systems should incorporate the rescue and rehabilitation of animals in disaster and port-disaster situations as well.