In addition, the EU and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) handed over the Kanchikudichcharu tank in Thirukkovil, which was improved through the EU-SDDP funds, to the Provincial Department of Irrigation (Ampara). The opening of the sluice gate by Ms. Nina Brandstrup, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, marked the symbolic handing over of the tank that will benefit 1130 farmer families. The project was implemented by FAO with a focus on increasing the water storage capacity of the tank.The tank, located in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, enables paddy cultivation on 1700 acres in the Maha (rainy) season and in the Yala (dry) season although full scale cultivation during the dry season had been substantially lower, with only 1100 acres being cultivated.With the improvement works that have been conducted, the tank is now able to irrigate an additional 600 acres of land during the Yala season and an additional 1200 metric tons of paddy production is expected with the increasing of the height of the tank bund and improvements to the spillways and sluices. European Union and United Nations officials visit development projects in Ampara today.A maternity ward at Ugana in Ampara was jointly declared open by the Head of Cooperation of Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Ms. Libuse Soukupova and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Representative, Dr. Paula Bulancea. A reforestation programme to plant 300 trees in the environs of the Kanchikudichcharu Irrigation Scheme was also conducted. The increase in production will generate more income for farmer families. (Colombo Gazette) While Ampara is the highest paddy producer in the country, only 40% of the farmers have access to quality seed paddy in the district.The Delegation also visited a Seed Paddy Processing Centre at Sammanthurai which was funded under the same EU Programme and implemented by UNDP. The facility will support a 25 member strong farmer organization for seed paddy production – AGRO Group. In support of this initiative, AGRO group invested in purchasing a land of 40 perch, while UNDP provided a complete building with machineries for the processing unit. The newly constructed maternity ward, which has been funded as part of the European Union-Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP) and implemented by UNICEF, will benefit over 65,000 people including children and families. Access to healthcare through such facilities is essential for women and children, especially the provision of family planning, making childbirth safe, vaccinating against diseases and promoting breastfeeding. The newly constructed ward will contribute to reducing maternal & infant mortality leading to better health outcomes for the country. The Bureau for the Prevention of Abuses of Children and Women in Ampara Police Station was also inaugurated by Ms. Soukupova and Dr. Bulancea. The Bureau was supported by the European Union through UNICEF, will benefit nearly 45,000 people in the region. The building of a Women’s and Children’s Desk (WCD), offers a safe and private space for victims of violence ans abuse to confidentially report their cases to the authorities. This initiative is key element of UNICEF’s child protection programme in ensuring that vulnerable children have a protective space that respects their dignity and their right to privacy. The Department of Police, the Ministry of Law and Order, the Probation Department, the National Child Protection Authority and the Rural Development Foundation are all involved in this initiative.