The Sri Lankan Government and the United Nations held a two-day workshop on 8 and 9 June in Colombo on lessons learned and best practices in the aftermath of the tsunami in Sri Lanka. The objective was for representatives of government, UN agencies, NGOs, donors and other key actors to collectively reflect on overall response and preparedness during the first eight-weeks of the emergency relief phase and identify ways to strengthen preparedness systems, procedures and mechanisms. The Workshop was opened with a speech by Mano Tittiwella, Senior Director General and Senior Advisor to the President and Chairman of the Taskforce for the Rebuilding of the Nation (TAFREN), with welcoming remarks by Miguel Bermeo, the UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, followed by presentations by Tilak Ranaviraja, Commissioner General for Essential Services and Chairman of the Taskforce for Relief (TAFOR), K. Ganesh, Government Agent for Jaffna, and Jeevan Thiagarajah, the Executive Director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA). For much of the two-day exercise, the 75 participants broke into five work groups to examine lessons learned -- what worked well and what didn't -- in the areas of Institutional and Legislative Arrangements; Stand-by Arrangements; Response Mechanisms; Coordination; and Early Warning Systems. Participants made numerous recommendation to be compiled in a final report. They include the need to decentralize authority and decision-making to the district and local level; streamline and improve communication between central and local level government and amongst all actors; and greater collaboration and overall coordination between all parties involved in disaster response and management. They also recommended that equity be a standard in all emergency relief operations, and that in designing early warning systems, they should not simply be for tsunami warnings but a multi-hazard system that safeguards against a range of natural and man-made disasters. The Colombo exercise follows similar national workshops, all organized with the assistance of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), that were held in late May in the tsunami-affected countries of Thailand, the Maldives and Indonesia. Next week, 13 and 14 June, in Medan, Indonesia, a regional "Lessons Learned and Best Practices Workshop" will bring together key participants from the national workshops in all four tsunami-affected countries.
Women and children continue to be victims of violence and sexual abuse nearly six-months after the massive tsunami devastation in the Indian Ocean region, according to a report of researchers following a conference -- "After the Tsunami: Human Rights and Vulnerable Populations," held in Bangkok, Thailand 3 to 4 June. The conference was sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley's Human Rights Centre; the University of Hawaii's Globalization Research Center; and the East-West Center. In surveys of tsunami survivors and aid workers in five tsunami-affected countries - India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Thailand - the researchers found that vulnerable groups, including women, children and migrants, are suffering from violence and exploitation. The researchers found that abuses are being caused by a lack of protection for individuals who lost their homes and are living in displacement camps; aid distribution is often lacking or discriminatory because of corruption, favoritism and poor management; decisions about relief, relocation and reconstruction aid are largely taking place without consultation with the affected communities. In all the countries surveyed, cramped living conditions in temporary housing have surfaced such problems as sexual violence, alcohol abuse and physical violence," the study said. Despite the massive influx of aid, it concludes, little has changed for many survivors since the tsunami.
Coordination and common services
In order to strengthen the Departments of Fisheries and Agriculture in their coordination and data collection at the district level, FAO has fielded District Coordinators for the districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Hambantota and Galle. The coordinators will seek to cooperate with already established local coordination mechanisms. FAO has also fielded data-entry specialists for the districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Hambantota, Galle and Matara, who will be compiling a data base in the Department of Fisheries or Agriculture, ensuring that the Government and FAO have accurate district level data on relief/rehabilitation/development activities in the fisheries and agriculture sectors. The staff was trained by OCHA's Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC). As well, FAO is supporting the Departments of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in several districts through provision of office equipment and vehicles to enhance their local capacity.
In Batticaloa district, a consultant for the German NGO, GTZ has established a database, using equipment provided by Save the Children, for tracking the requirements, distributions and beneficiaries in the fisheries sector.
In an update on its activities, WFP says it will continue to provide general food rations to beneficiaries with ration cards until the end of June and from July onwards, its response will involve a shift from targeting only tsunami-affected households to a more inclusive approach that considers pre-disaster vulnerabilities in the affected areas. WFP will pursue a range of more targeted and recovery-orientated activities, including vulnerable group feeding (estimated 300,000 beneficiaries until end of September), school feeding (115,000), maternal and child health (112,000) and food-for-work to rebuild roads and other damaged infrastructure (277,000). In an added effort to build the logistical capacity of the Ministry of Relief, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, its partner in its programmes, WFP handed over 85 motorbikes which where delivered directly to the government warehouse in Welisara. The shipment included 85 helmets and 85 jackets. In addition 40 computers were handed over to assist in the administration of the logistics, tracking, monitoring and record keeping. The computer package includes 40 printers, and 40 UPS. The total value of the current donation is in the region of US$ 100,550 or Rs10 Million.
To help children understand and come to terms with the grief and loss caused by the tsunami, Plan Sri Lanka released a book called "Searching for Punchi", in Colombo on 5 June. The colourful book is a fictionalised account of a Sri Lankan child's attempt to cope with the loss of a pet that dies in the tsunami. Through this, the concept of coping with grief and issues related to the tsunami disaster are discussed. The book, published in English, Sinhala, and Tamil is be distributed to about one million school children throughout the island.
According to Medicine Sans Frontier's March 2005 census of the population of Mandana camp, 592 families were residing there. Since March, the population in the camp has decreased with families gradually moving out as they receive transitional shelter or sought other accommodation. During the last week the rate of movement radically increased with some 130 families leaving during 3 to 5 June alone. The current camp population is now less than 200 families. The families left Mandana for several reasons, including lack of transport for school children and unconfirmed cases of rape and violence. The most compelling one, however, was a report of 21 cases of Hepatitis A in the camp. The report apparently evolved into a rumour of the existence of a yellow fever outbreak, which prompted a scare. The health sector in Ampara, which consists of government, UN agency and NGO representation, has been proactive in its efforts to identify the source of the disease; raise awareness about Hepatitis A and the necessary preventive measures to be undertaken by the affected families and the camp population. For example, the NGOs CAM, FORUT and Oxfam GB, along with the Ministry of Health Public Health Inspectors, have stepped up awareness raising activities regarding Hepatitis A and are explaining to camp residents and others the difference between Yellow Fever and Hepatitis A. Oxfam GB has also been doing water-quality checks of all drinking sources, including tanks, bladders and household containers.The OCHA Field Officer in Ampara has also been sharing educational information from WHO about the actual symptoms of Hepatitis A and Yellow Fever with all relevant actors.
Water and sanitation
On 1 June, FAO delivered 540 metres of flexihose and accessories to the Agrarian Service Centre (ASC) in Trincomalee. The ASC will use the equipment to rehabilitate saline wells on Sri Lanka's eastern coast under supervision of the staff of the provincial agricultural department.
Non-food items and shelter
In response to the need to improve some temporary shelters in Batticaloa district, Oxfam GB has provided houses with solar lanterns and improved, smoke-less stoves as well as distributing building kits with basic tools.
The Salvation Army is opening branches in Kilinochchi and Jaffna as part of its Sri Lanka Emergency and Recovery Programme and will be principally involved in housing construction and rehabilitation.
Habitat for Sri Lanka, a team of students from the East-West Center Asia Pacific Leadership programme and the University of Hawaii, has raised US$10,300 to assist in rebuilding housing in the tsunami-devastated country. Kathy Tran, an EWC student, recruited the 10 members of Habitat for Sri Lanka, who come from the United States and Asia. From 14 to 30 June, the students will work alongside villagers in Sri Lanka, building houses for homeless families. Since the Indian Ocean tsunami, Habitat for Humanity has worked in affected countries to meet short- and long-term shelter needs. In Sri Lanka, the non-profit organization plans to build at least 10,000 houses in tsunami-devastated areas. The average cost of a Habitat house in Sri Lanka is about US$1,600. The East-West Center is an independent, non-profit education and research organization established by the U.S. Congress in 1960. The Center promotes the development of a stable, prosperous and peaceful Asia-Pacific community through cooperative study, education and research.
On 2 June, FAO distributed approximately US$95 000 worth of material used for boat repair to Cey-nor repair centres in Beruwala, Galle, Matara, Kudawella, Tangalle and Kalmunai.
The Protection Task Force in Batticaloa, which is composed of government, UN agency and NGO representatives conduct on 9 June, a workshop on tsunami fears principally for residents of Thiraymadu. The Taskforce is exploring the possibility of establishing a mobile workshop for other communities in the district.
In Hambantota the NGO Plan International introduced the "Happy/Sad Letter Box" - 100 of them in all, that are placed in 25 school communities. Children can drop their letters to school counselors in the boxes for appropriate action.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.