Sri Lanka has experienced a multitude of natural and man-made disasters during the last five decades. Man-made destructions were common during the 30-year-long conflict period. Though the local system in the country was able to manage the dead in such circumstances, the South-Asian tsunami in 2004 highlighted the limitations and deficiencies of the system that was in place to handle the management of the dead during major disasters. Though the first Disaster Management Act was introduced in 2005, it has no mentioning regarding management of dead in mass disasters. Inappropriate handling of the dead could hinder the establishment of the identity of the dead, loss of valuable forensic evidence, and dignified burial. Hence, the families could experience difficulties in calming insurances and inheritance, resulting in economic hardships. In this backdrop, the forensic community strongly felt the necessity of stipulating best practices in managing dead.
To critically assess the measures taken to improve the standards of managing dead in mass disasters in Sri Lanka over the past 15 years.
The process of drafting guidelines for management of dead was initiated with a series of consultative meetings with the Disaster Preparedness and Response Unit of the Ministry of Health, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) and the Institute of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology (IFMT) in collaboration with the College of Forensic Pathologists of Sri Lanka. A working group representing forensic and legal experts, military, police, fire brigade department, and disaster management were involved in drafting these guidelines. Further guidelines for the effective conduct of mass burials following mass disasters were also prepared and published in 2007.
Despite all these efforts the efficacy of managing dead in recent mass disasters is still far from satisfactory.