KARAKITIVU, Sri Lanka, 22 December 2009 - Jayawathi's husband had just returned from his overnight fishing trip, and she was watching him prepare the catch in the front yard of their home in Karaitivu, on Sri Lanka's east coast. Transferring the overflowing buckets of small silvery fish to a larger tub for salting, it looked like a good catch, but earning enough money from fishing is difficult here.
"Making a living is a real problem," she lamented. "And it will be tough for my children too."
Five years after the tsunami, life is still challenging for Jayawathi and her family, but several home improvements have helped to ease the burden. Their house now has a toilet as part of UNICEF's efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene in the tsunami-affected areas of Sri Lanka. As part of the same effort, their neighbours received a new well.
Spreading the message
Schools throughout the area have also benefited. At the Vivekananda Vidyalaya Elementary School in Ampara District, the connection of the school to the water mains and the construction of a new latrine block have significantly improved hygiene standards in this child-friendly school.
Some of the senior students here have also formed a 'Children's Brigade' to help spread the message of cleanliness among their families.
Hassan Amanullah, a UNICEF Project Officer, has witnessed a marked improvement in the school: "More than 50 per cent of the children here were affected," he said. "And now, after five years, we can say almost all have recovered."
Flowing with water
UNICEF has also worked with local partners on larger ventures, such as a water supply project for hundreds of homes in a re-settlement area in Thirukkovil called the Mandanai Tsunami Resettlement Scheme. Recently completed on a nearby hillside, the Thirukkovil Water Supply Project will make a huge difference in the lives of ordinary people.
Shopkeeper Thawarasa showed us the tap that will soon be flowing with water when the system is connected. Currently, he has to collect water from,a well located in the middle of the settlement, a job that is made harder during the dry season.
"When the water is harder to pump, I have to get up at 2 in the morning and go to the well," Thawarasa said. "It normally takes me three hours to get enough water."
Five years on, life is certainly better for many thousands of families impacted by the tsunami. But this anniversary will still be a hard one for many. For Jayawathi it will be a reminder of her personal tragedy.
"I can't forget the tsunami, because of the loss of my son," she said. "The birth of my daughter since then has helped a little, but there will always be the pain."