Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: OCHA post-tsunami update May 2005

Originally published


United Nations Activities in Support of the Relief and Recovery Efforts of the Sri Lankan Government and Its People

A note from the editors

"Post-Tsunami Update" has been created with the objective of providing Sri Lankans and a wider audience a sense of the activities of UN agencies in support of the government and its people in their relief and recovery efforts. Within the few pages of this periodical, it is impossible to record the full dimensions of such support, or to mention the activities of each and every agency. Over the coming months, we hope to report on the activities of most actors in this landmark emergency relief and reconstruction effort. In the interim, we draw your attention to the UN agency contact list and the information on the Humanitarian Information Centre, both located on the back page of "Post-Tsunami Update." They can provide you valuable insight into the work of all the UN agencies involved in Sri Lankan relief and recovery efforts.

Achievements amongst the challenges

The December 2004 tsunami provided unique challenges to the Sri Lankan Government and its people and the international community that has been assisting the country in its relief and recovery efforts. The relief phase, while not flawless, particulary given the extraordinary numbers of actors who responded to the Sri Lankan disaster, achieved most of its humanitarian objectives. Virtually all tsunami sur- vivors have received food, shelter and medical assistance. Schools are back in session and recently the pace in con- struction of transitional shelters has picked up appreciably. Some of the bot- tlenecks regarding land allocation are now being resolved and soon the gov- ernment will table its national recon- struction plan and the recovery phase will begin full force.

Even given these achievements press- ing relief needs still exist. Some tsunami-survivors remain in tents and are challenged by the monsoon flood- ing. Many remain unemployed and without immediate income-generating prospects. It is during this transitional period -- as the emergency relief phase winds down and before the reconstruc- tion phase is in full gear - that all of us involved in responding must redouble our efforts to meet both the immediate needs and longer-term concerns of tsunami-affected communities. "Post- tsunami Update," the first issue of which you hold in your hands, has been creat- ed to share some of the achievements and challenges of UN agencies as they support the Sri Lankan Government and its people in their tsunami relief and recovery efforts.

Miguel Bermeo
UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka

Confronting the problems of monsoon flooding

While the pace is picking up in the construction of transitional shelters, it has not progressed as quickly as hoped for in Galle district because of assorted challenges including difficulties in land allocation. According to the Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP), 5,403 transitional shelters are needed in the district of which 2,739 have been completed by the end of April and 1,818 more are currently under construction. That leaves 846 shelters still to be built.

In the absence of such transitional accommodations, many IDPs are still living in tents with poor drainage and marginal water supply and sanitation facilities. According to a camp database compiled by Project Galle 2005, some 66 IDP camps are in Galle district with 29 camps in the stretch from Galle Town towards Welligama and 37 between Galle Town and Peraliya. Flooding routinely occurs in the coastal areas, particularly in Hikkaduwa and Seenigama. The flooding is aggravated by the annual high tides (warakan) that come around this time.

In anticipation of the monsoon, and given the slow pace of moving IDPs from emergency camps and shelters, Community Habitat Finance (CHF) and Project Galle 2005 conducted an assessment to identify camps at high risk of floods, and/or camps least likely to be resettled. The objective then was to provide these locations priority assistance - particularly in upgrading tents, replacing tents and improving drainage. Project Galle is proactive in dealing with the plight of those living in tents and other shelters prone to flooding.

They informed the District Secretary of each division where the camps were located, and approached the district Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) office for approval, in full consultation with UNHCR. Project Galle then conducted meetings with camp leaders and land owners to discuss their desperate shelter situations and their suggestions for improvements. Better drainage was an oft-mentioned priority.

This meant that work had to be done which included such initiatives as raising the ground level on which tents lie, providing shading from the mid-day heat, channeling drainage, and improving sanitary facilities. This consultative process led to a CHF-financed project which is being implemented by Project Galle 2005 to upgrade tents, improve drainage, and replace inadequate tents with appropriate ones where necessary.

Labor for improving drainage is done by the beneficiaries themselves thanks to a CHF Quick Impact Cash-for-Work programme.

Monitoring and evaluation of developments was done to ensure the delivery of approximately 150 camps before the monsoon season.

To date, Project Galle has replaced 60 tents in Galle district. They are using new tents provided by UNHCR and the Italian Civil Protection Unit. Project Galle has begun its drainage and tent upgrades in Seenigama, Hikkaduwa, but has experienced some delays given that the whole water site planning must be vetted by the district Water Board and other government agencies. Upgrading of tents is proceeding well in the Seenigama area with tents provided by the Italian Civil Protection Unit.

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