Sri Lanka

Humanitarian Situation Report - Sri Lanka: 15 - 21 Jul 2005

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Overall Situation
A South Asian Conference on gender concerns in post-tsunami reconstruction was held in Batticaloa on 14 July, where women from key tsunami-affected countries discussed common concerns and drew up strategies and recommendations to better their participation in the decision making and planning of reconstruction activities. The conference aimed at creating and sharing strategies and mechanisms for lobbying within the participants' work contexts, to provide a platform for future concerns and exchange gendered concerns in disaster situations within the South Asian region, to produce papers that share experiences from South Asia leading to a publication on gendered concerns in the post tsunami context in the native languages including Sinhala, and to publish the papers in a resource book for South Asia and Sri Lanka. The conference was organized by Suriya Women's Development Centre, a local non-governmental organization and was funded by UNDP's strengthening capacities of local and village organizations project under the Flash Appeal. Representatives from Banda Aceh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh and India participated in the conference which drafted strategies to overcome some of the common problems faced by women in the tsunami affected countries. The recommendations made will be presented to relevant governmental and non-governmental organizations in the weeks to come.

Four US Peace Corps "Crisis Corps" Volunteers joined the IOM Tsunami Response Programme on 4 July 2005 and have been dispatched to four tsunami-affected districts in the country. The volunteers will assist IOM in the implementation of activities under its Livelihood, Health and Psycho-social Programmes.

Health

In Trincomalee, Save the Children in Sri Lanka (SCiSL) is preparing to provide better facilities for 220 children who are in five transit camps in the northern part of the district. Data collection was done and it was recommended that study centres be set up in 5 camps. SCiSL will provide play therapy for children in 6 villages in Kilinochchi District. Already eight children's clubs have been formed in Vadamarchchi. Counselors from partner organization have provided individual as well as groups counseling for children.

A mobile team of IOM eye specialists recently screened 150 tsunami survivors in the hard-hit town of Kirinda in Hambantota district, and referred almost 100 people for follow-up care.

The team, consisting of a Sri Lankan eye specialist and four technicians, referred nine people for surgery to remove potentially blinding cataracts. A further 90 people were diagnosed with refractive errors and referred to Hambantota Base Hospital, where they will receive free spectacles. During the tsunami, many blind people lost their guides and were displaced into unfamiliar surroundings. The patients screened by the IOM eye specialists included many people who had lost their homes in the tsunami and are now residing in camps. Many lost their glasses making it more difficult to do everyday tasks such as caring for young children, sewing, cooking, and studying. For children this can have long term psychological and development implications. IOM hopes to expand this pilot project to eventually screen 100-thousand people affected by the tsunami. To strengthen the capacity of the health care system, the IOM also supported a one day training course in eye care for 40 health workers in Hambantota. The IOM's mobile eye care team has screened more than 3,000 Sri Lankans so far this year.

World Vision completed its Reproductive Health in Schools Programme in schools in the coastal area affected by the tsunami disaster. The schools are in Galle and Hikkaduwa municipalities in Uswathunhasana Vidyalaya, Sangamiththa Girls College, Sudharma Megalla and Anuladevi Balika, and in Madampagama M.Vidyalya, Sumangala Vidyalaya, Dodanduuwa Rohana Balika Vidyalaya, Sariputhra Vidyalaya, Rathgama dewapathiraja vidyalaya. The aim of the project is to create awareness of reproductive health among the youth. The programme included a seminar on the reproductive health, the need to secure youth in the future, and discussions on sexually transmitted diseases and methods of prevention, in particular HIV AIDS.

In Matara, SCiSL has completed construction of a children's library at Thalalla. It is the second library completed this month. SCiSL has started planning with children to establish teen programmes.

Water and sanitation

On 12 July, UNICEF organised a workshop on water quality and well rehabilitation in Batticaloa district. The workshop was so successful that participants have requested that it be repeated in the different divisions within the district.

Non-food items and shelter

Permanent settlement areas have been identified by SCiSL in Vadmarachchi East and Mullaitivu Districts. The Humanitarian De-mining group (UDG) has been given responsibility for assessment and clearance of all the locations in Mullaitivu and Vadamarachchi East that have been identified for the construction of permanent houses. The clearance of the lands (De-mining) will commence July 24, 2005. Over 5,000 houses are expected to be constructed in Mullaitivu and Vadamarachchi East, of which 2,000 houses are planned for the year 2005.

During the past two weeks IOM completed 278 transitional accommodations on various sites in the country. To date IOM has completed transitional accommodations for 2,111 tsunami-affected families and a total of 7,494 individuals are at present residing in their new transitional accommodations. A further 964 transitional accommodations are currently under construction. At present, land has been allocated for IOM to construct a total of 3,877 transitional accommodations on various sites in the country. IOM is committed to undertake further construction as land is allocated.

On Tuesday, 12 July, the District Secretary of Galle and Urban Development Authority (UDA) in Galle arranged a site visit to Walahanduwa, Akmeemana Division to inspect the proposed permanent housing site with organizations allocated to build the constructions. Among them were UN Habitat, and the Red Cross Society.

The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) has been repairing houses in the Akkaraipattu, Batticaloa, Kallar, Kalmunai, Komari, Trincomalee and Ampara areas from which a total of 540 families are expected to benefit. NCCSL and partners active in Negambo, Matara and Dehiwela are repairing homes benefiting 450 families and are also providing one-time seed capital for self-employment measures to 400 families mainly made up of widows, single parents and the extremely poor.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society in a joint project with the Malta Red Cross Society moved a tsunami-affected community in the southern coastal town of Rekawa into a completed housing project comprising 63 houses, 350 meters from the original settlement on the beach.

According to the Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) statistics as of 20 July, 78 per cent of all required transitional shelters in Batticaloa district -- 9,282 out of a total of 11,845 -were completed. With this, the percentage of completed shelters remains constant in comparison with statistics of the previous week. Although more shelters were finished, the requirement for such shelters has increased by 200 over the past week. TAP also reported that 93 per cent of completed shelters in Battcaloa are occupied. Since the occupancy survey is taking place during the day, it remains however unclear how many in fact stay in the shelters overnight.

For some weeks, shelter organizations in Batticaloa district have struggled with increasing taxes and a general lack of construction material - notably sand and gravel. The NGO Help from Germany and other shelter agencies have informed the Batticaloa Shelter Task Force that it had to halt construction work at several sites as a direct result of sand shortage. CEA, GTZ and OCHA are working with the district authority and the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (in charge of issuing sand mining permits) to find a solution. However, this issue seems to be a national one, and the GA has been asked to take it up with TAFREN.

Education

In Trincomalee SCiSL has initiated 25 new pre-schools by providing temporary shelter and equipment. Fifteen will be done through partners while SCiSL will implement the work of ten. Various out door play items (seesaws, slide, climbers and swings) have been distributed to 25 pre-schools constructed by different agencies (ASB, FOROUT, ZOA and WVI) in Mullaitivu District and Vadamarachchi East. A total of 1,408 children are registered in the above pre-schools.

In Jaffna SCiSL is providing 40 primary school teachers with bicycles; 44 primary school teachers with teacher's kits each cost Rs. 5,000; and a workshop is being organized for three schools to discuss long term maintenance, capacity building and upgrading of the schools.

In Kalutara district, a psycho-social training programme on general psycho-social awareness was held for 30 field workers and community leaders from 11-13 July. The programme was organized by the local NGO Sewalanka and was funded under the IOM Counter Trafficking Programme. IOM further assisted Sewalanka by way of translating a document that was used during this training programme. In addition IOM supported the painting of a community center under the supervision of the Social Mobilizer and Camp Manager. In Matara district, IOM supported the screening of two films in two IOM-supported camps. The Psychosocial Monitor participated in "Health Week" that commenced 4 July and was organized by Oxfam. Plans are underway for an information session on skills development, career guidance, trafficking and HIV/AIDS prevention for approximately 150 youth in cooperation with the Ministry of Skills Development.

IOM organized and funded a one-day mental health-training workshop in cooperation with WHO on 14 July in Jaffna district. It was attended by both local and international NGO representatives. The workshop focused on reviewing the available mental health training materials in Sri Lanka and commenced the development of a case study book to complement the mental health-training programme. The workshop was the first phase of a consultative process that will lead to the development of mental health training materials to be used in IOM training for public health workers of the Ministry of Health.

On 6 July, the NGO Mangrove held a six-month review of coordination work in the psycho-social sector in the Batticaloa district. After reviewing considerable achievements, coordination and resource sharing amongst over 70 organizations involved in the sector, a discussion was initiated about the nature of cooperative planning and action beyond the six-month mark. There was overwhelming support for the continuation of a coalition of psycho-social agencies in the district, and initial proposals and ideas were put forward by participants regarding possible modalities for this. One issue that was stressed was the need for greater commitment of time and resources by organizations to ensure coordination at the field level. Key decisions about the future of coordinated psycho-social work in the Batticaloa district were discussed at a special follow-up meeting of Mangrove members on 20 July. The conclusion of this meeting was that the Mangrove will be turned into a coalition of interested parties, that membership will be open to all but will require a formal commitment (in the form of a combination of fees and/or resource contributions, which will be worked out over the next weeks). The Mangrove will also employ a full-time advisor/coordinator to manage the day-to-day functions of the Mangrove and will report to the Executive Committee that will be appointed on a 9 month-basis. The mandate of the Mangrove was extended for another month until 24 August when the new set-up will take over.

Livelihoods

The implementation of IOM livelihood development projects has continued to increase steadily during the first half of July. The initial distribution of livelihood assistance in Kalutara district commenced with a livelihood ceremony at the IOM-constructed transitional accommodation site at Modarawila in Panadura on 14 July 2005. Livelihood equipment was handed over to 25 IOM beneficiaries previously identified through an IOM survey.

During the first two weeks of July, IOM commenced livelihood projects with 192 beneficiaries in Kalutara (25), Matara (42), Trincomalee (18), Batticaloa (36) and Ampara (71) districts. To date, direct livelihood assistance projects have commenced with 1207 tsunami-affected families. In addition, a considerable number of beneficiaries continue to receive assistance indirectly through training programmes implemented by IOM and capacity building support provided by IOM to local organizations.

A SCiSL cash-for-work programme was conducted in Talalla, Devinuwara division since the first week of July. Ten workers, including three women, were involved in the cleaning and leveling of a pre-school site for 15 days. Rs.450 a day was paid to each worker.

The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) and their partners have provided 404 bicycles to 104 families in the villages of Udhuvil and Anthikovilady in Jaffna to help them return to their livelihoods. In Matara, NCCSL is supporting self-employed street vendors return to work while 24 widows have been supplied with sewing machines. In Baddegama, NCCSL is conducting skills training for tsunami survivors through an information technology center.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.