On December, 26, 2004 a series of earthquakes in the Bay of Bengal (the strongest reaching 8.9 on the Richter scale) caused a succession of giant tsunami tidal waves of 3 to 10 meters in height. These tidal waves hit the southern and eastern coastal areas of India and penetrated inland up to 3 km, causing extensive damage to more than 2000 km of inhabited coastal zones. In Tamil Nadu alone, 7,983 deaths were reported across 12 coastal districts. Government reports estimate that over 10,880 people lost their lives.
The poorest and most vulnerable communities especially in rural areas were impacted the hardest; it took a toll of human lives, uprooted families, wrecked homes and livelihoods, and injured over 6,913 people causing countless disabilities. There are long-term consequences for families torn by death, disability, or separation (over 5,792 were reported missing). Women and children suffered the most damage from the tsunami in terms of housing and livelihoods.
SSP became involved in the disaster response in January 2005. As it provided its first relief activities, it developed connections on the ground with locals and established permanent offices in the Cuddalore and Mayavaram districts. Its target regions became the Nagapattinam and Cuddalore districts, two of the three most affected districts in Tamil Nadu.
SSP programs have worked to create leadership positions for women, build facilities in affected villages for community use, provide access to clean water, facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges, organize informational campaigns, conduct health camps with local partners, provide counseling to address the psychosocial consequences of the disaster and open opportunities for new livelihood activities.
Arogya Sakhis for Health Awareness and Action (ASHAA)
The ASHAA program began in 2005. ASHAA groups are organized at the village level and are comprised fully of women volunteers. To be a member one must have a genuine interest in improving community health. ASHAA groups work with community members, NGOs and village leadership to mobilize health and sanitation efforts and initiate community-minded projects. ASHAA groups were organized with the intent of addressing important community subjects such as environmental sanitation, personal hygiene, and awareness on the use of community toilets and the practice of open defecation.
The following report outlines the activities and accomplishments of ASHAA in 2007. The areas in which ASHAA has focused its efforts are:
- STRENGTHENING ASHAA
- WATER & SANITATION
- DISASTER RISK REDUCTION