Sri Lanka

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visits tsunami-affected areas in Sri Lanka

By Steve Nettleton

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, 17 June 2005 - As tsunami recovery efforts continue six months after the disaster, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visited Sri Lanka and met with children at a school rebuilt with UNICEF support.

Arriving by helicopter in the Batticaloa district, Ms. Veneman and Deputy Executive Director Toshiyuki Niwa, who is travelling with Ms. Veneman, were greeted by smiling schoolchildren at the Kukalmadam School.

After the school visit, Ms. Veneman and Mr. Niwa went on to the Arayampathy East camp, which now houses more than 500 tsunami survivors whose homes were badly damaged or destroyed.

"It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm on the part of the children and the fact that they were back at school and were able to thrive even in this environment," Ms. Veneman said.

December's tsunami killed over 30,000 people in Sri Lanka, injured or displaced thousands of children, women and men, and destroyed homes and schools across the southern and eastern regions. Approximately 72,000 Sri Lankan children were left without schools.

'Homework corner' helps children study

UNICEF responded to the emergency quickly, building 97 temporary schools across Sri Lanka, providing school materials, and supplying water tanks and latrines. One of the temporary schools is in Batticaloa.

UNICEF has provided clean water, bathing facilities, latrines, and set up a special safe play area for the children living in the camp. UNICEF has also built a 'homework corner' - a designated study area where the children can focus on their lessons and assignments. Schoolwork would otherwise be very difficult for children who have been displaced from their homes.

Ms. Veneman went on to the capital, Colombo, for a planned meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to discuss tsunami recovery efforts.