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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Healing Arts for Tsunami Survivors

Healing Arts for Tsunami Survivors: "The destruction caused by the December 26 tsunami in the Indian Ocean is likely to haunt generations. Nearly 160,000 people along the deadly seashores of Asia and Africa are known to have perished. The surviving children are left traumatized and vulnerable. The United Nations reports that 1.5 million children are affected, many of whom have lost one or both parents.

Many of these children are terrified by the ocean and unable to sleep. Some are already showing signs of fear and worry such as confused behavior, aggressive demeanor, and suicidal thoughts. Help delivered quickly will reduce the long-term psychological damage of this catastrophe on the children.

Children affected by tsunami and child survivors of 9/11 attacks
Scientific studies on the psychological effect of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center found that directly affected children were at risk for a variety of mental health problems including anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and childhood traumatic grief (CTG), a condition affecting those who experience a death under traumatic circumstances. Preventing and treating the distress experienced by children as soon as possible is crucial for optimal long-term health and recovery. Parents, caregivers and teachers of these children were found to minimize, ignore, deny and criticize, or be sensitive to the plight of the children, depending upon their own recovery and progress.

Although the magnitude and circumstances of the tsunami tragedy are different, the children who survived the tsunami face similar traumas as those who survived 9/11, and the knowledge gained from one tragedy can be useful in diagnosis and treatment of the survivors of another.

Healing and recovery program
Healing Arts for Tsunami Survivors is a program to help the 1.5 million child survivors of the tsunami tragedy. An initial three-phase program has been developed to help the children heal and resume normal lives. Your donations and support will help the program reach as many children as possible.

Leading experts from the Columbia University/NYS Psychiatric Institute, the Interactive Media Institute, the International Networking Group of Art Therapists (ING/AT), and the International Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) are helping the effort. Additional experts include a former co-director of the Silver Shield 9/11 Bereavement Program and consultant to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the coordinator of the Bam Paint Shop for children who survived the earthquake in Bam, Iran in 2003, which killed 46,000 people, and a clinical psychologist who was director of Children's Mental Health Services in Armenia during the Nagoro Karabagh war, who also led the child intervention efforts following the Armenian earthquake in 1989. Learn more...

ICAF is implementing the Healing Arts for Tsunami Survivors program through its partner organizations in Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia. These grass-root organizations started helping the children in their respective countries immediately after the tsunami struck. Learn more..."

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Bilingual Education and Cultural Inclusivity

Culture and Development: "Mother Language Day Promotes
Scientific research has long shown that skills such as math and reading are more effectively taught to schoolchildren in their mother tongue than in a second language. This usually entails a bilingual approach, the second language being the official one of the nation in which the students reside. Recent advances in the understanding of brain development go even further, concluding that learning a second language as a child, preferably before the age of five but also before the age of ten, is associated with more advanced gray matter in the brain in comparison to those who learned later.

Expanding bilingual education and revitalizing languages are useful strategies for reaching children who are excluded due to their ethnic, cultural, or religious origins or identity. The political, economic, and technical obstacles, however, are enormous. Regarding countries such as Nigeria -- with more than 400 languages -- which languages should be chosen for teaching, and why? In general, how are school systems to provide bilingual education to all pupils, and do so in an effective and affordable manner? The answers will impact significantly upon those 476 million members of the world's illiterate population who speak minority languages.

This dilemma aside, it remains possible to provide multicultural education to all, in which every student has his or her culture and language identified, recognized, and affirmed. Within a multicultural approach, students are taught analytical and behavioral skills that enable them to develop tolerance and even appreciation for other cultures, and to enhance their ability to relate equitably and respectfully across cultural lines. This not only strengthens bilingualism, it benefits entire societies and the world community." Read More

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OCHA: Humanitarian Situation Report - Sri Lanka: 01 - 03 March 2005

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Overall SituationThe UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on the Human Rights ofIDPs, Walter Kalin, visited Colombo on 28 February to 1 March, on anunofficial mission at the invitation of the National Protection and DurableSolutions for IDPs Project of the Human Rights Commission (HRC). In addition to giving a formal presentation on international IDP concerns at aforum in Columbo, he held informal meetings with government authorities, UNagencies and NGO representatives. According to WFP Security Office, a large number of civilian, including women, children, and students, held a calm demonstration in Jaffna that proceeded to Divisional Secretariat on 2 March. It was to protest both the recent killing of LTTE political cadres, and alleged discrimination in the provision of relief to Tsunami victims. The demonstrators delivered a letter to the UNHCR Office to be forwarded to the UN Secretary General, and also ones to the ICRC and SLMM.
Main challenges and response
According to UNICEF, the price of items on the local market has increasedconsiderably. Computers and generators, for example, are as much as doublethe price of equivalent goods from abroad even with the inclusion of freight charges. Domestic prices are increasing as a result of sizable purchases in response to the humanitarian emergency. There are also reportedly shortage of building materials. UNESCO, responding to a request by the Cultural Affair and National Heritage Ministry, has a team this week inspecting tsunami damage to WorldHeritage sites in Sri Lanka, especially in Jaffna and Galle Forts. UNICEF is facilitating a workshop on 4 March to develop guidelines, within existing government frameworks, for child sponsorship schemes. The workshop comes in the context of growing concern about apparent inequitable child sponsorship schemes being developed by some NGOs and agencies.
UNICEF reports that progress in the construction of transit camps is slow, most notably in the districts of the North East. As a result, many IDPs have been pitching tents on their own in areas with limited access to basic services. Reportedly, this is occurring in Jaffna, Batticaloa andTrincomalee. Furthermore, in Muthur division, Trincomalee, finding available land is difficult. In Echilampattai, where ample land exists, itis reported that roads are not suitable for the convenient delivery of relief items. A portion of UNICEF relief items was finally cleared by customs at the end of last week. Four gully emptiers, 1,500 tents, ten Landcruisers, five Maruti vans, one ambulance, and 124 motorbikes are among the items that have been released. The Government Agent's (GA) Office in Batticaloa agreed this week to requests by the Task Forces to establish a Working Group for the publication of the next GA's Information Bulletin. This will hopefully make a significant contribution in providing tsunami-affected populations in thearea additional information regarding relief and recovery activities that impact them.
Coordination and common services
Concern has been raised about condition in some camps: for example, inKallaru minimum standards of safety, security and basic needs are reportedly not being met, including inadequately constructed toilet facilities. UNHCR, along with other agencies, has offered to help rectify the situation. According to the agencies, the Kallaru camp situation highlights the need for increased monitoring to ensure quality control in project implementation.
Food security
The WFP reports that the Government is still in the process of registering tsunami affected people and has continued issuing additional cash/food coupons to the affected population. The total is now approximately 950,000. WFP has initiated discussions with the Government out of a concern that not all registered people are in need of food aid.
The Danish Red Cross has sent a specialist to Ampara to run a psycho-social counselling program in close cooperation with the regional health authorities and with volunteers from the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society. The program, the second in a series, aims at assisting people in the welfare centres and transit camps to come to terms with the loss of loved ones, and focuses particularly on psycho-social support for traumatised children. In the last two weeks, the ICRC has started distributing mail kits, consisting of stamps, envelopes, paper and pens to tsunami-affected families in key areas of the country, allowing them to stay in touch with relatives and at the same time provide them some psycho-social relief by expressing their concern and emotions regarding the disaster. Some 59,000 mosquito nets were dispatched by UNICEF to the districts overthe past two weeks - 20,0000 to Ampara, 12,000 to Batticaloa, 3,000 toGalle, 2,000 to Hambantota, 12,000 to Jaffna, 3,000 to Kalutara, and 2,000 to Matara. The Ministry of Health publicly presented the survey findings of the nutrition survey undertaken jointly by Medical ResearchInstitute/WFP/UNICEF at a meeting on 28 February. Some preliminary findingsf rom the survey indicate: 20 per cent of tsunami-affected children are stunted (height for age) compared to the national figure of 14 per cent; 16 per cent of children suffer from acute malnutrition (wasting) compared to a national figure of 14 per cent; The prevalence of acute malnutrition in the East (19.8 per cent) and West (18.1 per cent) were higher compared to the North (12.7 per cent) and South (12.8 per cent). More than two-thirds of under-five-year-olds were found to suffer from acute respiratory infections and nearly one in five children had diarrhoel diseases. Although the general food distribution for adults is adequate, children do not get appropriate supplementary food; Triposha - a blended food rich in micronutrients is only available to 14 per cent of under-five-year-old children. Although vitamin A capsules are readily available in the country, only 23 per cent of children received vitamin A supplements.
Water and sanitation
UNICEF has released a survey on the water and sanitation situation in IDP transit camps of tsunami-affected districts. Overall, the survey describes a relatively satisfactory situation. Nevertheless, the water supply and sanitation facilities are below national norms in some of the camps. According to this survey, the average size of camps is about 87 families. Batticaloa and Mullativu have some of the largest camps with single sites in the districts housing as many as 146 and 140 families, respectively. In total, there are 45 different agencies working in the water and sanitation sector. Coordination between stakeholders at the district level is reportedly good. Additional coordination efforts are required for the establishment of adequate hand washing and waste disposal facilities and for hygiene promotion.
Non-food items and shelter
In Vaddamarachchi East, an LTTE controlled part of Jaffna, 16 transition centers are being constructed. An additional 19 are nearly finished in theMullaitivu district. Some agencies are experiencing delays in finalising water and sanitation facilities and shelter construction. Various agencies have highlighted the urgency in completing this construction so people can move out of welfare centers, many of which are schools, so normal classescan resume again. IOM agreed to support the TAFOR (Task Force for Relief) Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) in setting up five regional offices to coordinate shelter activities.IOM is providing office equipment, computers and transport to the TAP office in Matara where IOM is the lead agency onshelter activities.
IOM's contracted shelter engineer is finalising three different shelter designs. Model construction commence in Kalutara district in early March. Of the estimated 73,000 people in the Northern region that are living in camps or with friends and relatives, approximately 90 per cent of theTsunami displaced had previously been displaced due to the conflict. The large majority of these people were displaced more than once, leaving them in a particular vulnerable position with hardly anything left. All Government Agents in the Southern Province are moving quickly to establish transitional shelter for displaced persons given the approach of monsoon season.
In Batticaloa, a two-week, rapid assessment of obstacles faced by IDP families in getting children back to school is being conducted in all camps by five master counselors trained by GTZ, two graduate trainees, one child psychiatrist from MSF and a UNICEF staff member.In Trincomalee, 23,000 back-to-school leaflets have been printed -- 20,000in Tamil and 3,000 in Sinhala - and target both students and their parents. The leaflets are being used as part of community-level mobilizationactivities carried out by the Education Department and other organizations participating in the campaign. In Batticaloa, a start has been made in the process of vacating tsunami-affected families from schools and into transition camps. Through an exemplary consultative and participatory process by various agencies and the community, one school has already been successfully vacated. PrinceCharles, on his 28 February stop in Batticaloa, visited the transition shelter site for these transferred families. An effort is now underway to replicate this successful transfer. UNICEF has orders an additional 3,000 desks, 7,000 chairs and 175,000 meters of white school uniform fabric to be delivered in coming weeks to stitch approximately 100,000 school uniforms for children. UNICEF previously provided uniform material for some 107,000 school children.
IOM has officially started its livelihood programme for tsunami affectedpeople. In collaboration with the Southern Development Authority and the Industrial Development Board, IOM gave 16 carpenters in Matara district replacement toolkits enabling them to get back to work in community reconstruction projects. IOM also organized two workshops for the Presidents and Secretaries of six Camp Care Committees in shelter sites constructed by IOM in Matara district. The workshops trained participants in the preparation of project proposals for livelihood projects that could employ camp residents.
With regard to livelihoods in the fisheries sector: in Batticaloa, Cordaid is providing some 2,200 small boats between now and May to fishermen in thearea who lost such craft. These donations should adequately meet all demand in the area for such fishing vessels. ProtectionThe Protection/Psycho-social Task Force in Batticaloa is now offering training for police and military personnel working in camps. There has been some concern from IDPs and aid workers regarding an increased military presence in the camps, particularly at the entrances of camps. An IOM public information campaign warning of the dangers of human trafficking of persons displaced by the tsunami is on-going in IDP camps throughout Sri Lanka. Educational posters and leaflets -- 2,000 in Sinhalaand 3,000 in Tamil -- are being distributed.
Mine clearance of all transition camp sites, plus a surrounding 100 meter buffer zone, has been completed in both Mullaitivu and Vaddamarachchi. Itshould be noted that the Humanitarian Demining Unit (HDU) Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) and the Danish Demining Group (DDG) had completed the clearance remarking unnecessary. A few unexploded ordnance (UXO) was found in the wider vicinity of the camps areas. Mine Risk Education programmes are still required and ongoing.

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Friday, March 04, 2005

Rebuilding Fisheries Livelihoods in Sri Lanka

Rebuilding Fisheries Livelihoods in Sri Lanka, the Post-Tsunami Concept note by ITDG-South Asia can be downloaded here.

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Tsunami victims go on protest in Galle

Sri Lanka, 3 - 3 - 2005: Tsunami victims go on protest in Galle: "Mar 03, Colombo: Victims of the December 26 tsunami in the Galle district yesterday staged a protest at the District Secretariat.
They said they have not received any relief since they were displaced by the disaster, though the media say the government and NGOs have received massive aid from overseas to provide relief to victims like them.
The protestors, coming from Magalla, Ratgama and Kaluwella of the Galle District, all say they have not received the much-publicized state relief. They also said no steps have been taken to put up temporary shelters on their behalf.
Fishermen who joined the protest said they could not continue with their fishing industry away from the coastal belt. They said they vehemently oppose the government�s decision to declare a 100-meter buffer zone as it is creating problems for their livelihood. "

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World Bank priority for SMEs in rural areas

Online Daily News
BY ASANGA Warnakulasuriya
THE World Bank in its latest assessment on Sri Lanka's investment outlook has decided to accord more priority to small and medium entrepreneurs in rural areas to help them develop more interlinking and product mobilisation.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, World Bank Sector Manager, Finance and Private Sector for the South Asian region, Simon C. Bell said that the assessment which was carried out focusing on the private sector in urban and rural areas had revealed that a lack of proper linkages and streamlined product range had led to snail paced development in the small and medium sector in rural areas.
"Although the BOI companies and other private companies based in Colombo and suburbs have adopted the mechanism of linkages and mobilisation, it was evident that most of the SMEs in rural areas were either unaware or facing financial difficulties, adopting such strategies," Bell said.
Considering the fact that agriculture is Sri Lanka's economic mainstay like in many other countries in South Asia and a majority are farmers, diversifying agricultural products was never looked upon unlike with the industrial aspect, he said.
He also said that in its report due to be released shortly, several key issues hampering the development process were also identified. One of the major difficulties faced by the urban private sector was labour legislation which also links with the trade unions and their actions.
Interruptions in the power supply and inadequate infrastructure to expand businesses have added to their woes, Bell added.
On the contrary, the rural based private sector has less worries with workers since most of them were family members but the main worry for SME's in the inner part of the country is the lack of proper transportation facilities and inadequate funds to adopt new technologies.
Bell made these comments following his brief visit to Kosgoda to help victims affected by the tsunami.
A team of volunteer staff members led by the Director, World Bank Finance and Private Sector Development South Asia region, Joseph Pernia yesterday helped the NGO, International Association for Human Values (IAHV) to rebuild a house in Kosgoda. US$ 2,500 raised by staff members was given to IAHV.
The Director speaking at the presentation said that "the sum may be a small one but it is a small token of what we feel from the heart".
Suraj Nair, the representative of IAHV for Sri Lanka was also present.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

A First Hand Account: by Geethanjali Selvendran

GeoLanka: "By Geethanjali Selvendran

I met with VC Peradeniya and Dr. Jayasena on the 14th of February. We had useful discussions. I need to follow up on many things when I get back.

I met with the secretary to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources on the morning of February 16th. The meting was very informative and useful, especially to make contacts. It was a coincidence that our article, "Reducing Solid Waste and Groundwater Contamination in Sri Lanka after the Tsunami" appeared in the Ceylon Daily News the previous day, and that he had read it as well! Mr. Leelaratne and the Ministry appeared to be fully appraised with the environmental damages caused by the tsunami. He welcomed our intended trip to Batticaloa and provided useful information.

The Ministry was looking for some information on how to disentangle fishing nets from the live coral reefs at two sites, one at Hikkaduwa and another in Jaffna. I have not had any success in getting any information on this as yet and I am afraid it will be too late.

We left Colombo around 11:30 am on the 16th of February and drove to Batticaloa that afternoon. (The driver was a bit anxious but we didn't realize his anxiety until we reached the Batticaloa area after dark!) The Vice Chancellor, Professor Ravindrananth, met us that evening to discuss our agenda and preliminaries. We went to Navaldy, Kalkudah, and Pasikudah area on the 17th. Ravi (Prof. Ravindranath) came with us to most areas. He has been helping everyone and does a lot of relief work. Everyone is full of praise for his total commitment. It was then I realized what an enormous task the country has ahead.

There were no traces of houses in some areas. It is very difficult to explain; most of the houses that have been completely destroyed had been built on the beach or so they looked today. In addition we spent quite a lot of time at the University meeting with some of the Professors and the students who have been victimized. Later we met with students and staff of St. Vincent's High School who have been victimized by the tsunami. It is so hard to forget the little girls who have lost one or both parents during the tsunami.

On the 18th we drove south to Akkarapatthu via Karthankudi, Kalmunai, and Mardanmuram. In most of these areas, all of the buildings have been completely wiped out up to about to 200 feet west from the Beach Road. The beach is very flat and open. As a result, the tsunami waves engulfed everything along the shore and on its path. As you moved more inland, more than 300- 400 feet from the shore, the houses were damaged, but some of the building structures were visible. It would be an enormous task to delineate the future construction line. It appears that some of the houses have been built on the beach.

As far as tsunami debris was concerned, there was no obvious hazardous waste to be seen. Most of the debris that was seen was construction and demolition debris from the buildings. These consisted of bricks and concrete. Often, there were pieces of clothing, apparently those worn by the victims, seen entangled on trees and wood etc. At Marthanmunai, a Solid Waste management company has been contracted to separate the construction and demolition debris to be utilized in the re-building of the Beach Road. There was another crew, employed by the Municipal council, separating the tin roofing from a building.

One problem appeared to be dumping of the collected debris along the beach. An overthrown refrigerator and water tanks were observed in a community that had been victimized in Kalkudah.

Almost all of the domestic wells have been inundated with salt water and debris. An assessment of the suitability of the wells for future use should be undertaken prior to rehabilitation. Because of the encroachment of the sea following tsunami, some of the wells would not be suitable for drinking water.

From a sanitary stand point, the wells should be located from a suitable distance from the septic and drainfileds. Because the
distance of the septic drainfield and the location of the wells are depended on the type of soil among other things. The soil been very sandy in most affected areas, the distance between the septic tank/drianfiled and the potable wells need not be that restrictive. Unless these houses have been provided with a sanitary sewer, the locations of the wells were too close for comfort form a sanitary standpoint. This should be another issue that needs to be considered during reconstruction efforts.

We noted that most of the refugees had been given tents. The tents may have been useful on a temporary basis, but appear to be unbearable under the local climatic conditions. It is essential that more suitable housing, (like thatched roofs and sides) be provided to the refugees until permanent houses have been built.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross, World Vision and UNICEF seem to be performing most of the relief work in addition to the Eastern University's relief work.

Almost everyone is frustrated because of the red tape. Some of the red tape is necessary and understandable, but should not completely dry out the donor funds and efforts!
Geethanjali Selvendran"

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I wanted to help, but doing it right isn't easy

Concord Monitor Online: "Disaster aid is breeding envy and greed, By MICHAEL DOBBS The Washington Post, March 02. 2005 8:10AM

WELIGAMA, Sri Lanka - When Priyanthi de Silva asked me for a new pair of glasses, I was naturally sympathetic. My own glasses had been swept away during the tsunami, and I knew what it was like to wander around in a blur. Priyanthi was obviously deserving. She had also lost her mother-in-law, her house and most of the possessions she had ever owned.
After all the other requests I had been receiving since my return to Sri Lanka to try to help out with the relief effort - a fishing boat, a house, a new school building -this one seemed easy enough to fulfill. It would cost just a few dollars - money I had in my pocket. I was in a position to bypass the difficulties that normally bedevil aid operations and give a needed object directly to the person who needed it. But little about the aid business is simple, and certainly not in Sri Lanka two months after the tsunami that had devastated much of the southern and eastern coastline.
A harsh truth
As I was talking to Priyanthi, a neighbor rushed up, reeking of arrak, a potent coconut brew much loved by Sri Lankan fishermen. He was full of Dutch courage, willing to say things he might normally have kept to himself. "She's cheating you,"he screamed. "All these people here"- he gestured at a group of villagers who had gathered around me -"they're just trying to fleece the foreigner, and get what they can out of you. Go away."
I was dumbfounded. I was back in Sri Lanka with the best of intentions. When the tsunami struck on Dec. 26, I had been staying with my family on a tiny island owned by my hotelier brother, Geoffrey. Like many other Western holiday-makers caught up in the world's worst natural disaster in living memory, I wanted to contribute somehow to the recovery operation. But here I was, blundering into a situation I didn't fully understand, stirring up enmities and jealousies among the very people I wanted to help.
This was the first time I had gotten involved in anything like this. During the course of a 30-year reporting career, I have witnessed more than my share of human suffering, from wars to earthquakes. I have always cultivated a sense of professional detachment, taking the view that reporters can contribute most by sticking to reporting.
But the tsunami was different. I wasn't simply an observer; I was a participant. When the waves came in, I was swimming in the sea. I survived by grabbing hold of a fishing boat, less than 100 yards from Priyanthi's house. As I clung to the catamaran, I could hear the desperate cries of people drowning in their houses.
I am pretty sure there was nothing I could have done to help them at the time. But those screams still echo in my head, and I continue to feel a sense of personal obligation that I've rarely felt as a journalist.
After I got back to Washington, I asked my bosses at The Post for a month's leave of absence so that I could assist in the relief work. Somewhat to my surprise, they agreed, while stipulating that any articles I wrote would disclose my personal involvement and would not be presented as news stories.
Aid that angers
Over the past few weeks, I have been helping Geoffrey raise funds for a charity he launched called Adopt Sri Lanka. I have also been working on a blog (http://www.washingtonpost.com/weligama) that is tracking the reconstruction of Weligama, a fishing community of 30,000 people next to Geoffrey's island. The result has been a worm's eye view into the disaster relief business that has caused me to revise many of the rather naive ideas with which I came to Sri Lanka. If dispensing aid were mainly a matter of helping needy individuals, life would be very simple. But everything turns out to be much more complicated than I had imagined.
An army of would-be philanthropists descended on Sri Lanka and the other tsunami-affected countries in the wake of the disaster. There were, of course, the big relief agencies like CARE and Doctors Without Borders, known in the aid business as NGOs, or nongovernmental organizations. And then there were private individuals, like me, who simply showed up wanting to help.
Some of the assistance has been extremely effective. Some of it has been next to useless. And some of it is spawning new conflicts and rivalries, upsetting the local power structure in ways that are often incomprehensible to outsiders.
Consider what happened to a group of German divers who arrived in Weligama soon after the tsunami, intending to retrieve boat engines that had been washed into the bay. Since they were on a humanitarian mission, they offered their services free of charge.
They thought they were doing everyone a favor until one day someone threw a stick of dynamite into the water after them. The explanation favored by aid workers: The Germans were stealing business from local divers who had been charging fishermen $50 for every engine they recovered from the bay.
Reeling them in
There are several hundred fishing boats in Weligama bay, around half of which were damaged beyond repair by the tsunami. Among the various donor groups, there should be enough funds available to replace all the boats that were damaged. But it's tough to decide where to begin. Some fishermen are claiming replacements for boats they never had, while others have submitted duplicate claims to different donors.
What's more, part of the fishing fleet is controlled by relatively rich individuals, who have succeeded in intimidating the poorer fishermen and are trying the same tactic on the donors. The other day, one of these richer fishermen threatened to burn all the boats on the beach unless his own claim for a new engine was satisfied immediately. He was taken aback when the donor filed a police report.
So many foreigners are passing through Weligama - the southern Sri Lankan coast had become a magnet for Western tourists even before the tsunami - that playing one against another is a simple enough exercise. From a local fisherman's point of view, submitting multiple claims for the same boat is perfectly rational behavior. Only half the foreigners deliver on their promises, anyway. The obvious solution is for the donors to cooperate with each other much more closely. But this is difficult when no one person, or organization, is in charge.
I quickly discovered that there is little love lost between the "professional" aid workers and the "amateurs." The professionals speak disparagingly of the amateurs as "disaster tourists," with no idea of how to run a proper relief operation. The amateurs wonder why so little of the money collected in Western countries after the tsunami has yet to reach the disaster areas.
It's true that some of the amateurs can be clueless, pushing aid packages out of the back of a van to whoever is around to grab them. But the fact remains that most of the relief that flowed into Weligama in the weeks immediately after the tsunami was provided not by NGOs but by local businessmen, both Sri Lankan and foreign.
Just in time
The big aid agencies have been practically invisible on this particular section of coastline, at least until now. The first time I became aware of a USAID presence in Weligama was last week, when teams of laborers wearing USAID caps showed up in the town, frantically shoveling away rubble in advance of a visit by presidential tsunami envoys George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Of all the challenges confronting aid workers in this part of the world, the biggest and most debilitating in my view is envy. If you buy a fisherman a boat, the next fisherman is likely to be upset, both with you and with the first fisherman. The answer, you might think, is to buy boats for an entire community of fishermen. But then the neighboring community would be angry. And so on.
Such envy is self-defeating because it scares away people who truly want to help. A wealthy foreigner who lives in Weligama told me he was racking his brains to devise a way to help his four immediate neighbors, whose homes were destroyed. He doesn't want his name in the paper for fear of drawing attention to himself. He is afraid that the moment he helps his neighbors, he will start a chain reaction of envy all along the coast.
Does this mean that we should throw up our hands in despair, and conclude that it is impossible to do anything to alleviate human suffering? Of course not. These are the kinds of difficulties that are familiar to anyone who launches a relief project in a Third World country. There are solutions to these problems, but they require patience and persistence and a willingness to adapt to local ways.
After my encounter with Priyanthi's neighbor, I began rethinking my approach. I felt uncomfortable in the role of the bountiful foreigner dishing out presents. I decided that it was not for me to determine who needed a new pair of spectacles and who didn't. I also concluded that working with communities and institutions is more productive than working with individuals.
A total of eight people - four women and four young children - were killed in Priyanthi's tiny 10-house community in the space of 15 minutes. All this happened within my earshot, and I wanted to do something for all the survivors, not just one or two. At present, they are all living in tents, pitched on the rubble of their former houses.
The local option
It could take years to provide permanent housing for everybody. The Sri Lankan government has banned construction within a 100-yard buffer zone from the sea, and has yet to announce a long-term building project for Weligama. So the short-term solution is temporary housing.
In order to provide Priyanthi and her neighbors with shelter, I turned to a local tire company called Loadstar, which has been leading relief operations in the most devastated section of Weligama.
I have every confidence that the company can manage my little project well, something I realize I cannot do myself. As a local company, Loadstar can draw on the resources of a large factory, as well as the knowledge and contacts of its Sri Lankan employees. By contrast, most foreign NGOs have been obliged to start from scratch.
We hope the temporary houses will be finished for the community within the next two weeks, before the villagers' tents are washed away by the springtime monsoon.
(Michael Dobbs is on the national staff of The Washington Post. He has reported from many of the world's trouble spots and was swimming off Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit.) "

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Replanning lives: the issues

Online edition of Daily News - Features: "by Manjari Peiris

(Information obtained in an interview with Psychiatrist, Mental Hospital Angoda Dr. Neil Fernando.)

Among the challenges in the post tsunami situations, the most complex is re-construction and re-planning of people's lives.

Girls and women may have certain special and biological needs that should be considered when providing them with support.

It is important to be mindful that many women and children could be exposed to vulnerable situations. Therefore we should take steps to minimize their risks and exposure to any circumstances which may lead to sexual and gender based violence.

Grief and mourning - lost of family members, relatives, friends, personal belongings, home and income - these are some ways in which mental health is affected. Many persons would have witnessed or suffered terrible experiences. Physical injury and illness - may have consequences for mental health.

They Live in an environment with no community network - camps are over crowded and with poor sanitation. People from different communities and social background may find difficulties in living together.

Bereavement (or grief) is the experience someone goes through when a loved one dies. Most people will experience bereavement at some point, in their lives. The death of someone we love is probably the most severe loss we have to cope with. This is the reason that bereavement can become a mental health issue.

Bereavement is similar to a wound which hurts. A person will need time to recover and to make the wound heal. Such as a wound, bereavement too can take a longer period of time to heal or become complicated.

Bereavement should be recognized as an intensely personal experience, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. In certain communities, bereavement can also be a collective experience involving many people grieving together. In such circumstances, the pain of loss can be shared with others.

Typically there are three stages in the human response to loss;

It cannot be true - the stage of denial - 1st 8 weeks

This happens just after the loss. Person concerned has a feeling that the loved one cannot be dead. When the death happens all of a sudden, this shock is most obvious. The bereaved person can be numb, as if in dream.

I feel miserable: the stage of sadness - up to 6 months

During this stage, the absence of the loved person is well noticed. Sadness and the feeling that the dead person is still alive are common experiences. Some may even hear their name being called or dream of the lost person.

Certain people blame themselves for not taking precautionary measures to prevent the death or may feel angry that the dead person left them. Crying, problems with sleep, loss of interest in activities and meeting with people and disinterest in living can be experienced during this stage.

It's time to move on: the stage of reorganization - up to 2 years

During this final period of bereavement, they accept the loss as a part of life and get on with the rest of their own lives. Believing and accepting that a loss is a gradual process, most of them think of the lost person very often.

However, sadness does not interfere with enjoying happy moments in life. The indication that he has moved from bereavement is that he makes plans for the future.

How to deal with bereavement?
* Talking about the loss may help him/her to reduce the feeling of distress. Should let the person share his/her feelings and thoughts.

* Reassure the person that experiences such as imagining that the lost person is still alive or searching for the relative are normal and that they are not signs of insanity.

* Educate them on the stages of grief so that they know what to expect and will not worry about feelings or thoughts.

* Encourage sharing feelings with friends and relatives. As far as possible, the person should not be alone for the first few days.

* Encourage them to participate in religious rituals associated with death; prayers may help to cope with grief.

* A few days after the bereavement, discussing feelings of loss or sadness may be helpful. Encourage the person to ventilate his/her emotions.

* Grief is a universal human experience and the ability to listen quietly and allow the sadness to be expressed is a treatment in itself.

* The person should have adequate rest and sleep. Sleeping problems should be treated.

* Encourage a gradual return to daily life so that activities can themselves be helpful in improving self-esteem.

* Identify people with suicidal risks and refer for further assessment.

Procedure for effective psychological support

* Develop a good rapport with the person

* Listen to the persons concerned

* Give information, explanation and advice

* Encourage the expressions of emotion

* Improve confidence

* Review and develop intact assets

* Encourage self-help

Basic steps in problems - solving counselling

* Basic techniques of effective psychosocial support

* Define and list the problems

* Choose a problem for action

* List alternative courses of action

* Evaluate the courses of action and choose the best

* Try the selected course of action

* Evaluate the results

* Repeat until the important problems have been resolved

Mental health promotion in a camp

Delegate responsibilities

One of the most disturbing experiences in being displaced is the sense of helplessness. A person who had been responsible and taking decisions in response to their needs before the disaster had occurred now finds himself/herself entirely dependent on relief workers.

By handing back responsibilities and assigning specific tasks to them, the relief workers would identify the strengths of each individual and then assign appropriate tasks. Task allocations should be done by keeping cultural norms in mind.

Persons living in camps can work in a variety of group activities such as helping to prepare food and caring for sick people. Support groups can help identify and solve common problems. Children should be given an opportunity to restore some semblance of normal life by going to classes and playing in groups.

Some refugees may need specific help. Counselling means listening to people's experiences, meeting them regularly, providing them with emotional support, practical help and advice and problem solving.

Sometimes a person may be found to be very depressed. This is a normal reaction in such stressful situation. However, using anti-depressant medicine may be helpful in specific cases, but this should be done with extreme caution, if absolutely necessary.

At other times, a person may be behaving in a disturbed manner where appropriate use of sleeping pills or tranquilizers for a short period of time may help in calming a person. Information could be obtained from a Medical Officer of Mental Health and should be made available in the camp.

Psychosocial support

* Accommodate persons living in camps as family units as far as possible, by providing each family a separate area, allowing every family a little privacy by either hanging clothes or mats between the spaces allocated to them.

* Select people among the displaced persons themselves to take responsibilities to provide security for their own camp.

* Select people among the displaced persons to plan, prepare and serve their own meals.

* Provide a place for religious activities.

* Invite religious leaders to conduct daily religious activities.

* Select support groups among the displaced persons and if they wish to, encourage them to share their experiences when they are ready for it. (Groups 8-10). These groups may be formed based on common issues, by age, gender, etc.

* Provide opportunities for displaced persons to earn a living using their livelihood skills; a mason helping to build a house, for instance.

When counselling a victim, it should include:

Finding out about the other members of the family. When family members are separated as a result of the disaster and bringing members of the families together can be a very useful task.

* Asking about the needs of the person, provide practical help.

* Asking what the person remembers of the disaster (only if he is willing to talk about it). Discussing and sharing traumatic experiences can help reduce the isolation and loneliness. But should not force people into discussions.

* Active listening to the person concerned can be therapeutic for him/her.

Problem solving

* A person may feel overwhelmed by the scale of problems he is facing. Helping him to select the main problems and then working out ways of tackling them can be important when empowering a person.

* Recognizing and treating common mental disorders such as depression.

* Identify people already on treatment for mental illness or with symptoms and continue treatment/refer for appropriate treatment. Children should be reunited to the best extent possible.

Those who have lost both their parents should be made to live with their siblings, relatives, neighbours or a person the child is comfortable with as a guardian, as early as possible. Children should be provided with facilities for outdoor play.

Involve children in story telling, drawing and painting (provide material for painting). Select people among the displaced persons to conduct classes for children during school hours."

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

FAO wants public participation in rebuilding coastal fishery communities

Online edition of Daily News - News: "
Bangkok, The very survival and livelihoods of coastal communities should take centre place in rebuilding fishing and aquaculture in tsunami-affected Asian countries, FAO warned today, states a press release.

During a workshop at the FAO regional office in Bangkok, a consortium of fisheries agencies presented a draft blue-print for the rebuilding and rehabilitation of fisheries and aquaculture communities and livelihoods in tsunami-affected Asian countries.

The workshop is the first coordinated partnership in Asia of the governments of tsunami-affected countries, NGOs, international and regional agencies, and bilateral donors to formulate a framework for regional fisheries rehabilitation initiatives.

"Our shared vision calls for extensive stakeholder consultation and public participation of fisheries and fish farmers which ensures respect for traditional uses, access and rights to food and resources, at the same time reducing potential risk and vulnerability for coastal communities from future natural disasters," said He Changchui, FAO's regional chief during the opening ceremony of the workshop.

Three areas identified by CONSRN for immediate consideration by national governments and other groups engaged in post-tsunami activities are:

* The avoidance of overcapacity in fishing boats and vessels: a forum and technical assistance are needed for coordinating between donors and countries on levels and suitability of fishing fleets in the region.

* The use of responsible and selective fishing gear in restoration programmes. This calls for appropriate national policies and the eradication of destructive fishing gears.

* The rehabilitation of cage aquaculture; improving efficiency and profitability of marine cage aquaculture and simultaneously reducing risk of disease and improving environmental performance and product quality.

The workshop will review the draft CONSRN proposal and come up with an agreed overall vision of what fisheries and aquaculture might look like in five years time and, based on guiding principles, define strategies to fulfill this vision.

An important outcome will be a series of recommendations for action by CONSRN partners, governments, development partners and donors, said FAO.

"As the region now moves towards rehabilitation and reconstruction, we emphasise the need for additional financial resources and technical assistance to the affected countries, beyond the pledges made so far for post-tsunami emergency programmes," added He.

Participants of the workshop include India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand as well as representatives from development agencies and donor countries (ADB, AUSAID, EC, Japan, SIDA and WB) and NGOs.

* The Consortium to restore shattered livelihoods in tsunami-devastated nations (CONSRN) is a grouping of the following governmental organisations:

* The bay of Bengal Programme - Intergovernmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO),

* The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO),

* The Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia and the Pacific (NACA),

* The South East Asia Fisheries Development Centres (SEAFDEC),

* The WorldFish Centre (WorldFish).

The consortium aims to combine the goals of the UN Millennium Declaration and relevant ASEAN resolutions with the principles of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture as contained in the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries NACA's Principles for Sustainable Aquaculture and SEAFDEC's Regional Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries in S.E. Asia."

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Tsunami Help for Sri Lanka: Psychosocial Issues: " by Ananda Galappatti
Please follow the links below to access resource documents that may be of use in planning psychosocial interventions in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in Sri Lanka.

General Psychosocial Documents
Psychosocial Working Group_Conceptual_Framework.pdf
Psychosocial Working Group_Framework_for_Practitioners.pdf
Mental Health in Emergencies WHO Document.pdf
What is a Psychosocial Intervention: Mapping the field in Sri Lanka.pdf
Separated Children Documents
Ananda Galappatt Presentation on Children and Residential Care at Dialogue, Colombo 2003.pdf
David Tolfree Community Based Care for Separated Children at Dialogue, Colombo 2003.pdf
David Tolfree Notes for Sri Lanka Pre-Conference at Dialogue, Colombo 2003.pdf

Information on the December 26 Tsunami(It has been identified that some children in areas affected by the tsunami have no information on 'why the sea came over the land'. This lack of information means that many children continue to feel unsafe whilst living in coastal areas. The following documents are offered as tools with which to initiate discussions with children - to share information and address their fears.

Information_on_Tsunami_(Complex English)

Thanks to SB Chatterjee for technical support in getting these documents linked. Thanks also to organisations and individuals whose documents I have borrowed for use in this post. Ananda Galappatti"

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Access for all

accesssrilanka.org: "The Access for all campaign asks for the inclusion of disabled people when rebuilding the nation. This means rebuilding an accessible nation: making all public buildings, transport, places of employment, services and infrastructure accessible to all. It also means including disabled people in plans for the nation. THINK of the potential of an inclusive society when rebuilding the nation. Think of the potential of disabled people to participate in the community, to contribute to society, to contribute to the economy. All this is possible if we seize this opportunity to make all new construction accessible. All this is possible if we make sure information distributed to communities reaches disabled people. All this is possible if disabled people are encouraged to participate in plans to rebuild livelihoods and to rebuild lives.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Humanising Education - the Pleiades Project

Online edition of Daily News - Features: "by Lionel Wijesiri

Supreme Court Judge, Justice Nimal E. Dissanayake at the Law College Awards ceremony recently made an interesting remark.

He said," Humanising education is about inculcating the necessary values, understanding tolerance and the ability to integrate with all groups of people in a disciplined manner. This is very beneficial to the society."

He is absolutely correct.

Education in Sri Lanka, I believe, had become a rigid impersonal process.

Critics say that schools (or most schools) damage and stifle children's natural capacity to learn and integrate with others. The system instils fear in failure, tension and avoidance of trying and being wrong with embarrassment in front of others.

The problems our society faces today require more than intelligence and technical know-how for their solutions. They are basically problems of living together and of co-operating in making our country a place where all of us can live in peace.

We need people who can accept and respect others as well as themselves. If the schools are society's means of preparing people to live in society they must be concerned with these objectives. That is why we need to add a fourth R to education - Relationships.

The Pleiades Project

Today's dramatic reality is that education as one of its most important social institutions, lack socially significant guidelines. This makes it difficult to formulate and implement a system of intellectual, moral and physical education that corresponds to the demands of the society's development.

Four years ago, an ambitious project was implemented in Colombia. It was termed 'The Pleiades Project'. (The term Pleiades comes from Greek mythology and refers to the seven daughters of Atlas who were pursued by Orion and were turned into a constellation to escape him.)

The project was expressed as an invitation to a "great movement of continuous support to institutions where groups of children, youngsters and adults meet like in a constellation of dreams, to fabricate a new world that we yet do not know".


Pleiades generated a wide social mobilization of the civil society around the schools of Colombia. The National Ministry of Education was the initiator.

It invited government and private institutions to participate in the project with the conviction that education is a very essential issue and that all society should face and take responsibility for it, because the future of education means the challenge of the future of a country.

Intellectuals, teachers, social scientists and parents agreed on the idea that basic education becomes the first big step in the construction of a peaceful country. Pleiades attempted to start the construction of the route.

The objectives of Pleiades were based upon the experience that when schools have the support of the community, they are capable of reaching significant developments in the quality of education.

The project unfolded through national and regional committees where the diverse individuals of the civil society were present. They helped with the management of Pleiades to the schools in Colombia.

The study material consisted of three tools, each one related to one of the aspects of the schooling life (knowledge and the development of knowledge, the quality of the school life and the improvement of the endeavours toward education) presented in the form of three games.

To work with the quality of life in the school, the project designed the first game called: 'The star of five points' which relates to five topics: teachers, activities, classmates, physical spaces in the school and educational materials.

Over a million children began talking about what they like and dislike about their schools: "I like the library", "I like the way my teacher dresses and solves problems", "what I don't like is when there is no water in the school," "we don't like the English subject because we don't understand anything"

The second game, which was designed to research the ideas of the children about learning and knowledge, was called 'To ask questions and write books'.

In this game students wrote a question about the subjects and after working in groups they organized the subjects and created a book with a topic present in the questions, in a way that it would be useful for the educational community.

Some of the questions which showed where the heart of Colombian children are: Why is Colombia at War? What are the people from other countries like? What will be the future of the children? Why are there children in the streets?

In the third aspect of the school life, the children were invited to formulate their desires without restriction. They worked in groups and found out which desires were realistically possible to achieve in a short, middle or long-term through a class project, a school project or a community project.

In the final national tabulation of results, there were more than three thousand projects created to help change the negative aspects of the problems revealed by the children.

Also, there were 15,113 books published with topics involving the history of their towns, why the children take drugs, Colombia, war and peace, poverty in Colombia, peace tools, etc.

At the conclusion of the project, a group of written materials were created with information about the unfolding of the project and the work to enhance the process of escorting the schools in the future.

'The Pleiades Project' has achieved positive quantitative and qualitative results. It has helped the Government to effect significant improvements in the educational system in Colombia.

Definitely, for our educational authorities there is lot to learn from the Pleiades project."

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Condominium - The best solution for urgent housing needs

Online edition of Daily News - Features: "by Kirthi Hewamanna

As a result of the recent devastation and destruction the need for housing has become critical and urgent. In the circumstances the best and the most practical solution is condominium housing.

Most people think of a condominium as either a high-rise or a low-rise apartment building and that Condominium Law may apply if a common wall is used to divide two units. This is a total misconception.

Condominium is a homeownership method and not the shape or size of a building. The concept is misunderstood by many - including some professionals in the Housing Industry.

Condominiums can also be townhouses, semi-detached houses or even fully detached houses. Condominium housing is successfully implemented all over the world including the developing countries.

Complications and problems can arise when condominiums are not set up in the proper way as it has been in the last 30 years in Sri Lanka. There is no doubt professional advice should be sought when setting up condominiums.

In the early 1970s the State owned rental buildings were privatised, allowing the tenants to buy their units. It paved the way for many people to become homeowners, who could not afford to buy a home otherwise. This was a very noble idea of the Govt. of that time and the Minister of Housing.

However since many officials who were engaged in the process of transferring ownership to tenants had no knowledge of the condominium homeownership method.

This has created an absolute mess in these housing complexes, and condominium living for some people has become distasteful. No constructive remedial action has been taken over the last 30 years to solve these problems.

The unit owners will have to understand that the units are exclusively owned by them. The common areas and facilities are jointly owned with the other residents. Therefore it is their responsibility to maintain these areas collectively.

Most people who own and live in the condominiums set up by the state think that it is the responsibility of the Government to look after the maintenance of these buildings and common areas. This has become a burden to the state as the maintenance is carried out with the tax payers money.

* In which way can the tsunami affected people benefit from this homeownership method?

Condominium living has many advantages and benefits. It is a method of combining some of the advantages of ownership with the freedoms associated with renting. This enables a person to share in the ownership and operation of a housing complex while having a negotiable title to his own unit.

* How can the condominiums be set up to provide hassle free living for these people?

After the construction is completed, the units should be allocated to them on a long term subsidised Payment Plan. The condominium has to be registered in the Land Registry. Proper by-laws and rules should be written and a constitution should be prepared and implemented.

A trained Condominium Manager should be appointed to run the condominium on day to day basis with the Residents' Management Committee.

* How do you select the type of condominium, which is most suitable for the tsunami affected people?

The size and shape of the building and the type of the condominium depends on the availability of the land in that particular area and the place.

Therefore not only detailed planning of unit layouts and fast construction, emphasis should be made on how to utilise common areas to give maximum facilities and hassle free living for these already traumatised people. It is important to prepare the correct condominium documents.

* In a low-rise walk-up apartment building, what aspects should be looked into when planning?

Usually such apartment buildings are constructed when the buildable land area is limited. Attention should be given to detail when planning unit layouts and the common facilities. Children's needs, adults needs, social interaction, day care, shopping, laundry facilities, recreational etc. have to be looked into.

* How can the people who lost everything afford to buy these condominiums?

The foreign aid and donations for housing has to be utilised to provide subsidized housing or the affected people. The units can be sold on a long term Purchase Plan. Ownership is always preferred over renting, as the residents will take good care of their units and common facilities, which are jointly owned with the other residents.

* If condominium ownership method is not understood by many, how do you expect the average person to understand and enjoy the benefits of condominium living?

An Awareness Program on Condominium living which is also an absolute necessity should be conducted for the residents.

Trained Condominium Managers should be there to look after the day-to-day affairs on long-term basis. These can be graduates who can learn the concept, rules and by-laws, basic accounting, arranging social activities, conducting meetings, keeping records etc.

* Should the State (N.H.D.A or C.M.A) get directly involved in managing these condominiums?

This is a private home ownership method. Their involvement can be minimal, if these new condominiums are set up properly and well managed.

The condomiums established in the last 30 years by the State have many problems. Therefore the recently established Condominium Management Authority has an enormous amount of work to do in this respect.

* Is the C.M.A. fully equipped to enforce the laws and exercise authority vested in it by the Apartment Ownership (Amendment) Act, 2003?

This Act should further be amended and certain clauses should be repealed. There are also some noticeable omissions. This is the opinion of many developers, condominium managers and others engaged in this industry.

* How can people who lived in single family houses before, get used to living in 650 sq. ft. apartments?

The large families can always get two apartments side by side in the building. However these units must meet the United Nations Habitat Standards when it comes to the floor area.

* How could people who cooked and washed clothes outside, and used out house toilets, get used to condominium apartment living?

When the unit layout is planned, emphasis should be given to essential and basic facilities. A community kitchen can be provided in addition to the small kitchen in the unit.

The access to the bathroom can be from the balcony. Clothes washing can be done in a community area and also can have a block of toilets as a common facility. These details can be worked out.

* How can the children be cooped up in a small 2-bedroom unit?

Common areas should be utilised to the maximum. Common recreation room, TV room, tuition room, reception room and some play areas in the building should be provided. Well protected outside play areas also can be provided for the children.

* How can the funds be made available for maintenance of these buildings?

The condominiums should have a Reserve Fund for major repairs and a fund for day-to-day maintenance. These funds should be allocated from Relief Funds, and donations. gradually the homeowners should take-over the responsibility for the maintenance cost.

* On what basis are the housing units allocated to the tsunami-affected people?

Condominiums have to be categorised according to the residents' needs, habits, customs and social and educational backgrounds. This is not segregation but to make it comfortable for the residents' interactions with others in the complex.

Condominium is a viable alternate homeownership method for all income groups and age groups. Proper planning and implementation is the key to success.

(The writer is a Condominium Specialist and an award winning Realtor in Canada with the wide experience in all aspects of Real Estate. Held membership in Canadian Real Estate Association, Ontario Real Estate Association, London - St. Thomas Real Estate Board, Ontario and was a member of the Realtor Political Action Committee, Canada).''

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Help Provincial Journalists get back to work

Sri Lanka Tsunami Aid: Help Provincial Journalists get back to work: "As we are all well aware, the tsunami that hit the island in December has greatly impacted many peoples and sectors within the country, including journalists and media workers. Many of them suffered great loss, the least of which is their equipment. But without their journalism tools many of these journalists, most of whom work freelance for low wages, are unable to return to work and with that try to piece their lives together and regain some of the dignity that was swept away.

To help these journalists return to work, the Free Media movement (FMM) makes this appeal for support on their behalf. We intend to provide them with the necessary equipment and are working closely with the provincial journalists associations in the affected regions, the Sri Lanka Muslim Journalists Forum (SLMJF) and Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Alliance (SLTJA) in this regard.

We are currently focusing on Provincial Journalists as they are freelancers and do not receive a fixed income from media organizations. Further, they were the first on the scene, reporting amid the tragedy and havoc caused by the tsunami.

Following field visits by an FMM team, we have identified 21 provincial correspondents (as at 22 February 2005) that we intend to support through this program. Their details are provided below. All details have been verified by police report and FMM volunteers visiting these areas. We intend to provide each with a digital camera and a digital voice recorder as an immediate first step to getting them back to reporting the post tsunami
situation and other issues.

The approximate cost per set of equipment is valued at US $ 450 (digital camera @ approximate cost of US $ 300- 350; high quality digital voice recorder @ approximately US $ 120- 150). One journalist has also lost his Television Camera, valued at approximately US $ 2,500.

If you or your organization are able to support this appeal please contact me on 0777-312457 or fmm@diamond.lanka.net to discuss arrangements. FMM, together with the provincial journalists associations, SLMJF and SLTJA will organize a simple ceremony at which to hand over this equipment to the journalists whose details are provided below.

We are still working on verifying information received from various sources on more affected journalists. Therefore, we may update this list in the near future based on further confirmation of details. In the event of updates, we will keep you informed.

We thank you for your support to our effort.

Sincerely yours,

Sunanda Deshapriya
Spokes person- Free Media Movement "

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The UNICEF report on its emergency response during the first six weeks following the Tsunami can be down loaded here. It contains a detailed descriptions of the assesment of the damage caused by the Tsunami, UNICEF emergency response and the UNICEF operations.

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OCHA Situation Report for Feb 25-28

This is a part of the situation report circulated through lk-relief.
The Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) is now posting on its website theweekly meeting schedules of UN agencies, INGOs, NGOs and governmentagencies in Colombo and Batticaloa districts. Schedules for the up-comingweek are to be posted each Friday. HIC is in the process of assembling suchscheduling information for other districts as well. The HIC website - whichis at www.humanitarianinfo/srilanka.org -- also posts UN agency and NGOsitreps and other reports and data. The website will soon also include adatabase with essential contact information for UN agencies and NGOs ineach province and district. Those organizations that would like to beincluded on the database should contact Sweeni Jinadasa at HIC. Email her at <jinadasa@un.org> or telephone: 011 259 1118 / 259 1314-16.
UNHCR Ampara has initiated a pilot project with the Rural DevelopmentFoundation (RDF), its key shelter implementing partner, to build 42shelters with locally purchased materials. Twenty-seven shelters are to bebuilt on land not owned by the beneficiaries and fifteen on their own land.The structures which are to be completed by mid-March are intended torelieve some of the crowding in temporary shelters. The pilot project hasbeen initiated in the context of various delays experienced in the delivery and, particularly, regarding approval for land use.
UNHCR and UNICEF are conducting a rapid protection assessment in the East,North and South of Sri Lanka to determine the preferences of beneficiariesregarding their relocation. Twelve enumerators are conducting in-depthinterviews with IDPs in both transitional accommodation centres and at theresidences of host families. The rapid assessment will be completed by theend of this month.WFP reports that in all the tsunami-affected districts more than 90 percent of beneficiaries have now been issued coupon cards by the governmentwhich enable them to receive allotments of food and cash. According to WFPthe total number of people needing food assistance in February was 852,500with WFP providing food - transported and distributed by governmentagencies -- to 850,000. Other agencies supply food assistance to theremainder of the recipients. WFP has distributed some 19,200 metric tonssince 28 December, with 2,397 metric tons of food distributed daily from 18to 23 February.WFP, World Vision and the MRRR (Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation andReconciliation) will begin on 1 March a supplementary feeding programme,through primary schools in the nine districts affected by the tsunami --Ampara, Trincomalee, Matara, Hambantota, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Jaffna,Galle and Batticaloa. The programme will run for an initial two-monthperiod in 171 schools and is expected to reach a total of 34,404 children,ages five-to-ten-years old.WFP has been training warehouse staff in Galle, Matara and Hambantotadistricts in the appropriate handling of food aid commodities as per itsinternational standards; and in WFP standard documentation routinesregarding waybills, stock registries and data reconciliation of tonnagesarrived, dispatched and distributed. The staff being trained are employees of WFP's main implementing partner, the MRRR.",
of imported shelter material and because of complications in coordinationand, particularly, regarding approval for land use.

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Urgent Request for Tents

This is an urgent request sent through lk-relief.
Does anyone have tents that we might purchase/receive via donation? We are working with approximately 50 IDP families on the East Coast who could use them ASAP.

Thanks so much,
If you can help with this please contact
Kathleen K. Rutledge
World Concern Development Organization
Communications and Grants Officer
E-mail: worldconcernsrilanka@yahoo.com
Tel: +94 11 4740505/2671983
Fax: +94 11 2671983
Mob: +94 77 6987478

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Hands On: Timber Not Termites

Hands On: Timber Not Termites - Sri Lanka: " by Lionel Jayanetti
With the increasing population pressures in developing countries, the amount of natural forest is reducing while the demand for wood and wood products rises. In less affluent societies, timber is by far the most important source of structural members for building, purely on account of cost and local availability. It is also a renewable resource and attempts have been made, albeit often on a small-scale, to establish plantations of commercial species in developing countries.

In the modern world, the policy of the foresters is to plant at least enough land to compensate for extraction and natural wastage. In such an operation, trees are planted in close proximity to each other so that in their early stages they grow in slim, upright form with little development of lateral branches. Since the full potential of the site is concentrated on about 200 trees per hectare forming the final crop (in the case of many hardwoods), thinning is carried out at intervals. The thinning operation often provides trees of a quite reasonable size which can be efficiently used in the round form. In most cases, these timber thinnings, or poles, have a fairly thick outer sapwood layer which is easily penetrated by preservatives, and it is sufficient to provide a continuous and reasonably thick outer layer of protected wood.

Timber poles, being almost circular in cross section, are stronger in bending than rectangular timber of similar grade and section. The round pole possesses a very high proportion of the basic strength of its species because knots have less effect on the strength of naturally round timbers compared with sawn sections. Generally, poles can be very easily erected and produce a rigid framework to support the roof and walls of a building and, if necessary, part of the floor as well. Poles need not be embedded in very deep holes because even soil of low bearing strength could easily be improved around each pole, eliminating the need for an excessive depth of setting.

In pole construction, the poles actually have an inherent ability to resist wind uplift, especially if the roof framing is very securely attached to them. Above all, the design of any pole structure can be simple enough for unskilled persons to construct.

Low-cost housing construction
For centuries, people of the villages of Sri Lanka have built houses using materials that are available locally. However, the lifespan of this type of building can be short and it may need replacing every few years. Low cost houses using the same materials can be given extended lives using the techniques described below. Poles for roofs are treated with preservative and properly jointed. Foundations are made from rubble bound with mortar. Walls are made from cement stabilised soil blocks and roof tiles from micro concrete.

Rubble foundations
The foundations are first set out accurately using string lines and stakes. The depth and width of the foundations will depend on local ground conditions. The fill consists of rubble stabilised with cement mortar but bricks or concrete blocks may also be used, if available. The completed foundations must project at least 100mm above ground level and are finished with a concrete screed.

Cement stabilised blocks
The walls are made from soil blocks stabilised with cement. The main local soil (laterite) is ideal for block manufacture. Soils with too much clay or silt are unsuitable. The soil is first crushed and sieved then water and cement are added. The mix is then compressed in a CINVA ram machine to form the block. Blocks must then be spray cured for at least seven days.

Walls are built using normal block laying techniques and a cement/sand mortar (1:6 mix). Walls should be protected from rain during construction with polythene sheets or similar material.

Preservative treatment
The roof is fabricated from small diameter (50-150mm) timber poles treated with preservative in an open tank using the boron diffusion method. The poles are debarked and treated while still green. The tank is filled with water and the correct quantity of preservative is added. A fire is then lit under the tank to warm the solution. The solution is stirred to ensure thorough mixing and, when the solution has reached 50°C, the poles are placed in the tank. After several hours the fire is extinguished and once the solution has cooled down, the poles are removed from the tank, stacked and wrapped in polythene or a similar material. After fourteen days, the treated poles are ready for use in the roof structure.

Health and safety procedures must be followed at all times and operators should wear appropriate protective clothing.

Micro-concrete tiles
Roofing tiles are made from local sand, aggregate and cement (1:1:2 mix). The materials are mixed with water to the correct consistency. A scoop of the mixture is placed in a frame on the vibrating table and levelled with a trowel. The tile nibs are formed and the vibrated screed is then transferred to the mould. A holding-down wire is inserted into the nib. The moulds are stacked for an initial 24 hour curing period after which the tiles are transferred to a water tank for up to two weeks. The cured tiles are laid on battens at 500mm centres. The nib must be located directly against the batten. Tiles are fixed to the battens by nailing through the holding down wire.

The roof consists of a ridge purlin, wallplates and rafters. Wallplates are bedded in 12-25mm of mortar. They overhang the gable wall by 600mm and are joined using nailed half laps. The ridge purlin is supported off struts at internal wall positions. The ridge purlins overhang the gable wall by 600mm and are bedded in mortar. At the struts, they are half-lapped and nailed into the seatings. Once the purlins and wallplates are in place, the rafters can be fixed.

The use of long nails (minimum 125mm) is important to ensure a good fixing. Nailed timber packers may be used if the purlin or wallplate is too low due to lack of straightness. If they are too high the rafter may be notched by up to 12mm. 50mm x 25mm tiling battens are now fixed to the rafters. Timber packers can be used to make up any differences in level caused by lack of straightness between rafters.

How the project contributes to protecting the environment

The life of the timber poles is extended by preservative treatment. Both the preservative used and the resulting treated timber are non-harmful to human beings and have minimal negative environmental impact - rather they conserve an otherwise biodegradable resource.

Project benefits
In addition to such obvious benefits as the provision of high quality, low cost shelter and the increased awareness of environmental issues, the project has introduced local communities to the necessary training and skills which enable self-help construction projects of this nature to be undertaken. Furthermore, the use of treated timber poles in the housing project has eliminated the need for costly sawn timber which must currently be imported to Sri Lanka.

The project was funded by the Department for International Development of the British Government (formerly Overseas Development Administration) under an Engineering Division research project.

Partner agencies:
TRADA / TRADA Technology Limited
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa
Lanka Evangelical Alliance Development Service (LEADS)
State Timber Corporation

For further information, please contact:
Lionel Jayanetti , Overseas Operations TRADA TECHNOLOGY , Chiltern House , Stocking Lane , Hughenden Valley, High Wycombe , Buckinghamshire, HPI4 4ND, United Kingdom.
Tel: +44 (0) 1494 563091
Fax: +44 (0) 1494 565487

E-mail: dljayanetti@ttlchiltern.co.uk

ITDG would like to acknowledge Lionel Jayanetti, the head of TRADA International, for providing the original paper on TRADA Technology’s approach to affordable shelter in Sri Lanka.

This document is an output from a project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the benefit of developing countries. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the DFID.

TVE/ITDG gratefully acknowledge support for the HANDS ON programmes from the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission (EC), the UN Foundation and UNDP/The Equator Initiative in collaboration with the Government of Canada, IDRC, IUCN, BrasilConnects and the Nature Conservancy. "

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Monday, February 28, 2005

Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform

Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform
Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) was formed as a network of farmer organizations, NGOs and people’s organizations in other sectors at the beginning of 1990, in response to the serious socio-political and economic crisis that emerged in Sri Lanka at the end of 1980s. Efforts made in integrating Sri Lanka’s economy into the globalization process resulted in an unprecedented increase in rural poverty, breakdown in rural small farmer agriculture, malnutrition among children, high rate of anemia, among mothers, low birth weight babies, large increase in income disparities, loss of livelihoods.

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Tamil Information Technology Association's Homepage

Tamil Information Technology Association's Homepage: "The Tamil Information Technology Association (TITA) is a non-profit IT service organization operating from Sri Lanka. In 1999, when the civil war was at its peak, the idea to establish such a service organization was conceived in the minds of a handful of recently passed out Tamil engineering graduates and undergraduates in Sri Lanka.
It was a time when there was no service organization for Tamils working to fill the vacuum prevalent in the Information Technology field. Most of the North, East and Upcountry of Sri Lanka were in complete darkness with regard to the fast growing field of Information Technology. A vast majority of Tamil school students were growing without even seeing a real computer in front of their eyes. There were no computers at all in schools, expect a few town schools. The very few government offices, which had computing facilities, were using computers only for word processing. General awareness about the potential of IT was very low even among top-level government servants in Tamil areas.
It was in this background that TITA started functioning from the late 1999 and was then formally registered as a service organization in Sri Lanka in November 2000."

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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Working towards a 'Hazard Warning' system

Online edition of Sunday Observer - Business:by Ranga Kamaladasa
"............. 'We're not talking about a monopoly of any kind. So many others can have disaster warning systems. The question is, shall we get an all round national awareness system? Of course, then other structures can accommodate themselves into it in a modular or maybe in a fragmental fashion,' added Rohan Samarajeeva. This warning system involves different societies, localities and communities with different places, different stakeholders in a heterogeneous environment.
The question is whether it is possible to actually bring forth a system that will attribute to all these various vicinities? What extent of credibility will the people involved have in issuing warnings to the masses? As experienced in the tsunami, inaccurate warnings lead to much disarray and leave people in a heap of unwanted difficulties, which can be almost as calamitous as the real thing. All these issues were addressed at the discussion and is still open for comment via their email address (comments@vanguardfoundation.com).
As Malathy Knight of LirneAsia, in her short briefing on Governance issues, emphasised the importance of getting involvement from the government as well as the consequences that will come out because of the current culture in Government systems. 'A false alarm given by a government official can lead to looting or many other things.
But in this system you can't hold the scientist or expert accountable. So that highlights the need to have someone like a politician who will be accountable in the next election. But unresolved issues of governance might have affects,' she said. "

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Tsunami disaster: A wake-up call to all Sri Lankans

Online edition of Sunday Observer - Business: "By Gamarala
'There is only one thing that remains to us
That cannot be taken away:
To act with courage and dignity and
To stick to the ideals
That have given meaning to life.'
- Jawaharlal Nehru

...................... Public response has been spontaneous, generous and truly magnificent - on a scale never before seen in our country. No sooner did local people hear about the disaster, they responded with God like compassion.

People from all walks of life and strata, even little children, dug into their "piggy banks" (tills) to contribute money to help "our suffering Tsunami victims". Others collected food (dry rations) drinking water, clothing, cooking utensils, cash to buy medicines.

Young men and women formed themselves into groups and flocked to the affected areas - Galle, Hambantota, Ampara, Trincomalee and Batticaloa to "help in any way" they could. Rich traders and 'transport agents' volunteered to provide vehicles; contractors provided tractors and bulldozers to help clear the rubble of collapsed buildings in the Tsunami ravaged areas. Some women were so moved by this tragedy, that they gifted their personal jewellery to raise money for the 'Tsunami relief fund'.

The armed services, police, public servants, clergy of all religions; academics and professionals and the corporate sector - also politicians of all hues - red, blue, green etc. rushed to assist our people in need".

Only a few days ago, the Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera narrated the touching story of a young woman at a 'relief centre' - a mother who had lost her infant in the Tsunami - she was seen breast feeding another infant who had lost both its parents.

She cared not whether this child was Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim. As far as she was concerned, this was a baby in need, and she just did what she had to do - hold the child to her own breast and ensure that at least this baby would live. If that isn't the milk of human kindness, what is it?

'Gamarala' had never seen such compassion and generosity in all his life. Was this really my country-our people? He pinched himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming!


"The most sublime courage I have ever witnessed has Come among that class too poor to know they possessed it, and too humble for the world to discover it."

- George Bernard Shaw

'Civil society' in Sri Lanka had truly 'awakened' to the task of disaster relief and civic action on a scale never before seen in our land. To fully comprehend the significance and potential of this transformation, we must reflect on life in our country before the Tsunami struck us.

Pre Tsunami Situation

Disasters like the Tsunami compel us to reflect and take stock of things. It could have a cathartic effect on our lives, and the future of our nation. Let us reflect on the pre-Tsunami period - perhaps going as far back as 4th Feb. 1948 (Independence day).

We were a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society living in harmony despite other differences of caste, and class (rich/poor) when our colonial masters - the British - Granted independence in 1948.

During the five decades that followed, ethnic divisions between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority widened alarmingly resulting in several clashes between these two communities leading to the creation of the LTTE and its call for a separate State. A neglected southern province, limited employment opportunities for southern youth and insensitive government policies led to the formation of the militant JVP.

Continued neglect and repression of their just demands for a more equitable sharing of resources and more jobs, by successive governments, resulted in two insurrections (1971) and (1988-90). Civil war in the North and East and the JVP insurrections cost this nation dearly. Sri Lanka lost the 'cream, of its youth.

These two events also accelerated the 'brain drain' - Sri Lanka lost some of its most talented and creative professionals - men and women of high integrity - who saw no hope for themselves and their children in 'mother Lanka'.

Open economic policies ('globalization') initiated in 1978, and continued with gay abandon for the next 25 years, widened the gap between rich and poor - the rich (mainly confined to the urban areas in the Western Province) became richer, while the rural population engaged predominantly in agriculture and fisheries (constituting the majority of the population), experienced increasing marginalization and pauperization.

Malnutrition increased; loss of food security, cultural erosion, environmental degration, increased bribery and corruption in the public service - a frightening increase in crime and violence against women, indiscipline in our schools and universities, recurrent 'strikes' and 'work to rule' campaigns even in the "essential services", increasing intolerance of opposing views (unthinkable in a democracy). Drug abuse, child abuse, increased prostitution, alcoholism, racism, religious conflict, political opportunism and squabbling over petty issues. " Read more

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Website launched to aid fishermen

Online edition of Sunday Observer - Business: "http://www.buyaboat.uk.net/, a UK website has launched a program to provide fishing boats to Sri Lankan fishermen who lost their boats and fishing gear in the December 26 tsunami, the Program Coordinator Chris Kinder stated. Inspired by an article of the urgency of providing boats to fishermen to enable them to restart their livelihood, Kinder said that the Buy-a-Boat Appeal Project is to give these fishermen a fresh start that will help them restore family and community life. The Rotary Club of Falmouth has agreed to help with the administration aspects for this appeal and an HSBC charity account has been opened to receive donations via HSBC Falmouth Sort Code 40-21-02 account No. 51378813. The project started with contacts between Hash House Harriers, a worldwide running Group in Colombo and Truro. Over the last few weeks fund raising plans have extended into Denmark and Belgium to buy boats for the needy fishermen. "

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ADB allocates another US$ 7 million to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, 2 - 26 - 2005: "11:42 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
'Restoring the capacity to generate income is the first crucial step towards renewed self-reliance.'

Feb 26, Colombo: The Asia Development Bank (ADB) yesterday approved the reallocation of seven million US dollars from a Rural Finance Sector Development Project in Sri Lanka to establish a sustainable system for enhancing access to rural and microfinance services.
The ADB said that three loans totaling 70 million dollars were approved by ADB in December 2003 for the Rural Finance Sector Development Program (RFSDP). Also under the project, a 10 million-dollar line of credit would be disbursed through microfinance institutions to support microenterprise subloans of up to about 1,000 dollars each.
�The reallocation will allow an immediate and substantial response to restore livelihood in [tsunami] affected areas through microfinance institutions,' said Ashok Sharma, principal rural finance and microfinance specialist.
�Emergency credit will help [people] quickly overcome the massive disruption and shock they have experienced to their livelihoods and income sources,� he said.
�This response will combine cash grant with public works programs supported by other external partners and the government,� said Alessandro Pio, ADB's country director in Sri Lanka.
�Restoring the capacity to generate income is the first crucial step towards renewed self-reliance. It is important that these programs have uniform terms and conditions in line with the government�s schemes to avoid confusion and disparities,� he added. "

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