Sri Lanka

252.48 kilometres of challenges, obstacles, hard work and success

Mahieash Johnney in Sri Lanka

Acres and acres of green paddy fields welcome us and we drive along the road from Ampara to Pottuvil in Eastern Sri Lanka. The road is full of men and women travelling on bicycles and farmers herding water buffaloes; sights common to this part of the island.

As a journalist, I travelled the same route in mid-2005 but the scenery was very different then.

Wherever you looked all you could see was rubble. Even several months after the tsunami, those left homeless walked around with an eerie look on their faces and eyes that echoed their pain and despair. It is a sight I will never forget.

The tragedy that struck in 2004 left scars in people’s hearts. The tsunami took thousands of lives, destroyed entire communities’ livelihoods, and took away the few possessions the villagers had. It changed Sri Lanka’s landscape but it failed to wash away the determination and the spirit of the people. The proof is all around us.

The movement in action

When the Asian Tsunami struck almost seven years ago, 45,000 people died and over 500,000 were displaced.

The estimated economic impact was over one billion USD only in Sri Lanka. The Government launched a 3.5 billion USD reconstruction drive in which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), along with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) and other partner National Societies, committed to a 736 million CHF (over 886 million USD) reconstruction programme in the island.

Today as the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has provided support to almost two million Sri Lankans in terms of shelter, water and sanitation, health and care, livelihood and psychological support.

The final lap…

The only running project yet to be completed is the Water and Sanitation programme that has provided drinking water to over 75,000 people on the eastern seaboard. This accomplishment was achieved by laying over 250.48km of pipeline.

In Akkaraipattu, which is around 45km north of Pottuvil, we met the community in order to asses our work.

“There were times that we walked miles and miles to the water post provided by the local authority. It was very difficult then, as I was the only one at home in the daytime,” Sushila, a 33-year-old mother of two, said. “I had to carry my child, go, and come back with a pot of water. Life was difficult then. But then the Red Cross took steps to bring water to our village. I thank God for that” she added.

Bob McKerrow, IFRC Sri Lanka Head of Delegation, who also visited the area to see the impact of the project, said the work of the various partners was inspiring. “What I saw made me realise that what we humanitarians do every day does matter. It has indeed been a painstaking and an arduous task of getting this project off the ground. However as we now have reached the final lap, I take in pride in saying that we have had the best team of professionals, volunteers and staff in order to get this done.”