Context of the Intervention
Like many international actors, ACTED has engaged in reconstruction efforts in countries hit by the Tsunami December 26th of last year. Today, ACTED leads its programs from its base in Batticaloa with the support of the national office in Colombo. To implement these projects ACTED has mobilised four expatriates and 70 national Staff. ACTED and its personnel are confronted with a new context. The post natural disaster rehabilitation is atypical and far from what we could have imagined due to the high presence of international and national NGOs, and various types of donors. Today for example, 75 organizations are present in the District of Batticaloa.
ACTED Sri Lanka has targeted three villages by focusing its first actions on the cleansing of wells and the construction of semi-permanent shelters. The list of beneficiaries becoming more and more precise as ACTED's staff comes to better understand the context, the strengths and weaknesses of the different actors working on similar projects or areas, and the exchange of experiences of these different parties. From the start, ACTED privileged integration programs. Their impact, in terms of quality and results, deserves to be analyzed, nine months after the disaster.
ACTED's Privileged Integrated Approach
ACTED has, henceforth, a name and an identity in Sri Lanka. Recognized, not only by NGOs and the government, but also by the communities with which ACTED interacts. Thanks to the support of the Foundation of France, the Post Tsunami Interdepartmental Delegation (DIPT), the French Embassy and the Adour Garonne Water Agency, ACTED intervenes in many domains and several administrative divisions of the district, from the construction of semi-permanent shelters to the rehabilitation of water and sanitation infrastructures, as well as road rehabilitation through cash for work incentives, hygiene promotion, psychosocial support for victims, and support to the fishing sector.
From the start, ACTED Sri Lanka focused on an integrated strategy aiming at facilitating the return of populations displaced because of the Tsunami. The organization adopted a mid-term vision. This enabled ACTED to stabilize itself, and reinforce its ties with the communities and ensure the quality of its programs. Basic water and sanitation infrastructure rehabilitation as well as shelter construction were the two components of the logical approach to rehabilitation. Once the emergency needs covered, ACTED's intervention concentrated on providing support for the fishing sector, badly hit by the Tsunami, through the implementation of income generating projects for fishermen. These activities lie within a long term vision aiming at gaining economic stability. Simultaneously, ACTED launched several other projects relating to hygiene promotion, and psycho-social support (accessibility to schools, community clinics etc.) as well as underwater coastal cleanup in order to make the fishing sector activities long lasting for selected villages.
Results to Date
ACTED has distributed twelve boats (18 to 31 feet) as well as their fishing nets and other equipment, assisted over 100 fishmongers, underwater coastal cleanup around one village, and is currently in the rehabilitation phase of machines producing ice, used to facilitate the stocking and selling of products from the ocean. Finally the employment of 4,500 beneficiaries in the entire district has not only enabled the creation of new opportunities for the beneficiaries through income generation, but also rendered possible the rehabilitation of over 70km of priority roads in villages thanks to the cleaning and recycling of debris.
In the southern region of the District of Batticaloa, ACTED is currently completing the construction of 382 semi-permanent shelters, and over 300 latrines. In these same villages, ACTED' teams also cleaned 1,343 wells and distributed over 1,500 hygiene kits to families returned from refugee camps. ACTED equally has a network of volunteers working for hygiene promotion and the set up of psycho-social support for communities. 600 families per week are approached by 90 women, trained to heighten public awareness on the importance of hygiene. The innovative distribution of locally created brochures has enabled ACTED to become a reference for other organizations such as the Italian Red Cross, Care, or the district's Department of Public Health.
Today these different entities re-use this documentation for their public awareness actions. In order to ensure long lasting interventions, ACTED has, while moving forward, tried to associate itself as much as possible with local institutional actors in order to reinforce their capacities, mostly through training sessions. ACTED organized (along with Terre des Hommes, and other international NGOs), for example, two large festivals in camps, bringing together over 5,000 children and educating them on subjects such as community cohesion, or family hygiene.
Sustainable Action and future perspectives
With 9 months of experience at hand, but also strong ties with the community's beneficiaries, ACTED understands the importance of setting up a sustainable and comprehensive intervention strategy. Learning its lessons from the Tsunami context, ACTED Sri Lanka must henceforth balance its effort between "Tsunami" projects and projects benefiting war affected communities. The Tsunami gave rise to unprecedented worldwide generosity for the victims of the disaster. This aid, however, created an unfair aid situation for the populations affected by 15 years of civil conflict. Today ACTED cannot envision future action in Sri Lanka without taking these populations into account. In the Tsunami affected zones, ACTED is planning on implementing micro finance activities in order to provide Tsunami affected populations with more autonomy in their development, insisting once again on the training of these persons. ACTED will invest in other sectors, somewhat neglected such as infrastructure, water and sanitation. It is, the war affected communities' needs, left aside after 15 years of war, for the most part humanitarian, that will push ACTED towards the next level. By choosing to engage in community assistance, ACTED would like to take on a new challenge: work in areas that are neither controlled by regular authorities, nor ruled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), rebel group still fighting for the civil war for the independence of the territory it claims, the Tamil Eelam. Although this group is trying to acquire international credibility, the situation remains unstable in the field because of the tensions with the regular army. Populations have not yet been displaced, but the volatility of this increasingly blurred situation, especially after the Tsunami, has complicated ACTED's interaction. The movements of ACTED teams, for example, often slowed by the numerous check points from the army or the LTTE, targeted assassinations between political parties, or kidnapping threats on national staff or local organizations with which ACTED works or desires to work. Negotiations between ACTED and the LTTE have already taken place to ensure that ACTED's presence remains neutral amidst this conflict. This neutrality is fundamental for it enables ACTED to continue implementing its programs, responding to the objectives of its term.
The project currently being set up with the support of ECHO, the construction of 500 semi-permanent shelters and latrines with an important hygiene education component, and the reinvestment in the agricultural sector of three villages on LTTE territory, will enable ACTED to integrate this new perspective. At the same time, ACTED Sri Lanka would like to pursue, thanks to the Foundation of France, and following the integrated approach of community capacity mutual reinforcement. Following the same lines, ACTED will continue to pursue its engagements in Sri Lanka by opening new LTTE zones, or in other districts of the East Coast bring depth to the micro finance project.