Six month after the tsunami devastated coastal regions of southern Asia, Medair distributed their 2,500th and final shelter today. Mrs Seinambunachi, a 56 year old widow with four dependent family members, came to the Medair workshop to watch the component parts of her shelter being loaded onto a tractor which she then accompanied to the site where her home will be constructed.
Prior to the tsunami, Mrs Seinambunachi lived in a small shack constructed from wood and plaited leaves from coconut trees. She described her experience of the enormous waves, only really starting to comprehend what was happening when the second, larger wave came and destroyed her hut. She escaped, along with her family, by running inland.
Because her previous home was of a low standard, she has not been classified as losing a house and she is therefore not eligible for a replacement. Mrs Seinambunachi is one of many people in poverty who has been 'forgotten' in the official statistics. Ironically, government and international standards for transitional houses surpass those of Mrs Seinambunachi's original home.
Medair has campaigned tirelessly so that the poorest section of society, who might otherwise be overlooked, are able to receive some assistance. So it was with great satisfaction that we saw the last person to benefit from the shelter programme leave the workshop clutching file, holding a bag of nails in her other hand and wearing a great big smile.
Since the emergency and resettlement phase is now over and Medair has fully reached its objectives, mid-July the team will hand over their activities to partner organizations (ZOA refugee care -- who has been active for 9 years in Sri Lanka) and to the local authorities to maintain the water and sanitation facilities.
Medair remains committed to the survival needs of the tsunami affected populations. Therefore a team of experts is currently conducting an assessment in the north-east of the country (around Jaffna peninsula), which was not only hit by the wave, but has long been suffering a civil war. In the next 3 months, we will also consider ongoing needs in other tsunami affected countries.