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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, June 18, 2005

Child labour and our education system

Daily News: 15/06/2005" by Tharuka Dissanaike

After many years of hard campaigning, we are almost there. The problem of child labour has drastically reduced, largely due to successful awareness campaigns and very public prosecution. Many middle class homes resist taking in young children as domestics even when they are in dire need of household help. The level of fear created by the rigorous implementation of the law is such.

But look at the simmering issues that still lie under the surface of this apparent victory.

I personally know many parents from estates and rural villages who send their barely-teenage sons to the city to earn a living.

At times, it is not the parents wish- but the youngster himself. Drops out of school, finds himself idling with older boys, then is influenced by the gang to come with them to the town.

Although domestic labour has reduced in homes, there are many, many kades in the city and the fast growing suburbs that attract young labour. Boys as young as 10 or 12 are often seen measuring rice and dhal in a grocery store or selling sun-baked grapes or seasonal rambutans by the roadside.

They are paid a pittance, they work ungodly hours, they are provided with stale food, have to deal with rat-ridden sleeping quarters and rarely get to visit their homes.

Invariably these children end up running away from this modern slave labour in a few years (or months) and often end up as anti-social elements living in the fringes of the citys labour market.

Although the UNICEF definition of childhood reaches its ceiling at 18 years, for many Sri Lankan children childhood ends long before that.

There are two main reasons for the early end of childhood. Acute and chronic poverty is one. The other is the high rate of school dropouts and the fact that our formal education system does not cater for the multitudes that do not pursue higher education.

Just consider last Decembers O/L results. As many as 50% failed the test. That means all these students did not qualify for higher education beyond the age of 16.

For poor families in very remote and rural areas, the option of their children repeating the O/L exam is even more remote. For them, just being able to put their children through 10 years of schooling is good enough. They have no fancy aspirations for their offspring.

Many will then go and work in the fields, take out the fishing boats with their elders or seek employment in some urban hell.

What are their options anyway? For the children, after dropping out of school either before O/L and finally after failing the O/L there are few doors open.

They have very little real knowledge. Hardly any skills in English. Absolutely no skills. Most vocational training programmes and technical schools ask for O/L pass as a basic qualification. After all, we think, who cant pass the O/L? But a staggering 50% of the children who sat for it last December didn't.

Many will end up in the cheap labour market with no real future. For teenagers, whether male or female, this is a bleak and terrible indictment at the very outset of their transition to adulthood. If we have to insist that all children must go and complete school, we have to provide the background for it.

If the formal education system has no room for such children, there has to be other obvious avenues to persuade them to stay in school and acquire some life skills.

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Field and channel drainage Impact of subsidence on coastal areas

Tsunami reconstruction - helping rural people rebuild their lives: 14/6/2005.
FAO has analyzed the problems of subsidence and uplifting in tsunami affected countries, which has caused permanent loss of arable land to the sea, relocation of farmers who lost their land, and environmental damage to coral reefs and mangroves. These movements and horizontal displacements need close monitoring to prevent further saline water intrusion and degradation of water quality.
Download the full report

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Gluts of produce - a problem fast receding

Daily News: 16/06/2005" by Afreeha Jawad

Looks like supermarket owners are currently into fulfilling a national task. The days of glut commodities and farmer suicides are receding. Facilitated with mobile State of the Art cooling systems, they now traverse far and wide into very remote areas and purchase farmer output - something where even the state apparatus failed.

This surely is not to glorify these food chains, some of whom are only too noted for undated food items - almost always the production date gone missing - not to speak of substandard food, like the recent stale chicken haul and even fabricated expiry dates on food cans.

The problems of over production and produce was so bad that farmers used to wait for long hours by the wayside eagerly waiting for the arrival of the middle man, sitting and staring at their rotting output only to be dumped in the backyard.

According to the Industrial Technology Institute's Dr. Malinee Abeysekera, though the problem of produce disposal remains, at least its mitigation is a great solace.

"What we need now is more and more purchasing bodies from the private sector to come in like what supermarkets are doing," she added.

She also suggests organised production instead of small plots like, for instance, growing a commodity in five acres instead of one.

She was right, concentrated growing even makes purchasing easier than the adhoc type where buyers would have to stick to a sort of pecking exercise.

Educating the producer into produce preservation is also one of her strong points in maintaining quality till buyers come which is one of ITI's (CISIR's) many concern areas. Currently, this institution's endeavour into such exercise is a raging success with workshops conducted islandwide at grassroots level not to forget another such in the offing at Embilipitiya.

For instance, the minimal processing of underutilised tropical fruits, such as, bread fruit and jak by the ITI has lured many into it as self-employment.

Minimal processing teaches farmers to retain the original colour and quality of fresh produce for consumer acceptance as today's consumers are more into going natural. This then is not some foregone conclusion. One look at those shelves in any grocery will reveal the static sales of the numerous canned and bottled items which at one time were the 'consumers' darling.

Minimally processed produce, she informed, are living plant tissues that usually receive washing, sanitation/preservation treatment or both before being packaged for refrigeration, distribution and marketing. Many factors in pre and post processing impact minimally processed products' retention of high quality or marketable shelf life.

Research on minimal processing of under-utilised commodities such as jak and breadfruit funded by CARP with technical know-how from ITI reveal the need for pre-treatment of these products to control enzymatic browning in breadfruit and ripening in jakfruit along with storage temperature and microbiological analysis to test consumption suitability.

ITI insists on absolute cleanliness during processing. In its workshops farmers are introduced into clean tables, utensils, knives, chlorinated water and calcium chloride - the last of which helps strengthen tissues in breadfruit. Jak is dipped in hot water to deactivate enzymes. Thus extreme care is taken to keep tissues intact which if damaged leads to spoiling.

Cold storage is essential to prevent colour change and control ripening. Damaged tissues, according to Abeysekera, quickens respiration while cold storage prevents browning.

For self-employment purposes she believes even a small refrigerator would do. All what one needs is around Rs. 15,000 to initiate this business.

Jak and breadfruit notably are in excess when in season. So much of it is well-known to rot under trees which in some other country would have been fully handled to its advantage - bottled, canned, chipped, packeted and what not.

The technology for successful storage of minimally processed jak fruit and breadfruit is now complete and is available from the ITI's Post Harvest Technology group led by Dr. Shanthi Wilson.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Dam Safety Expert Consultation

LIRNEasia - Dam Safety Expert Consultation May 20: "LIRNEasia and Vanguard Foundation, in collaboration with the Sri Lanka National Committee of Large Dams, have conducted an Expert Consultation as the basis for developing a concept paper on an Early Warning System for Dam Related Hazards. Most of the Sri Lankan experts on dam management and safety were invited to this event.
The event was kicked off by Chandra Jayaratne, Director of the Vanguard Foundation and Rohan Samarajiva, Executive Director of LIRNEasia with a welcome address and opening remarks.
The first presentation titled, Nineteen years later, what lessons have been learnt from the Kantale breach (and what changes have been implemented)? by D W R Weerakoon, Former Director General of Irrigation and Secretary, Presidential Commission on the Kantale Dam Breach.
It was followed by a presentation by Nimal Wickramaratne, Director, Headworks of the Mahaweli Authority documenting International best practices in dam safety.
The third presentation documented the Current situation of dam management in Sri Lankaby Badra Kamaladasa, Deputy Director (Dam Safety), Department of Irrigation.
The fourth and the last presentation was made by Tissa Illangasekare, AMAX Distinguished Chair of Environmental Science & Engineering & Professor of Civil Engineering; Director, Center for Experimental Study of Subsurface Environmental Processes (CESEP) Colorado School of Mines, USA & Anura Jayasumana, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering & Computer Science, Colorado State University, USA via videoconferencing from Colorado. Their presentation explored What are some innovative technologies for hazard detection in dams?
Each presentation was followed by 30 minutes of discussion. The Expert Consultation ended with an open forum where dam experts discussed some of the crucial issues raised in the presentations. This session was chaired by K.S.R. De Silva, Director General of Irrigation & President, Sri Lanka National Committee on Large Dams.
Based on the discussions and presentations, a concept paper on an Early Warning System for Dam Related Hazards is currently being written and will be presented on this website(LIRNEasia) shortly for your comments. Please check back later.
Related Article"

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FEATURE - Countries work on different plans to escape tsunami

Reuters: 13/06/2005" By Bill Tarrant

WALAGEDO, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - The next time monster waves tear through this quiet little village on Sri Lanka's ruined southern coast, the man who runs the local cafe is poised to sound the alarm.

In Indonesia's devastated Aceh province, authorities are planning "escape hills" or mammoth, manmade mounds where people can run up to if there is another tsunami.

And Thailand is building 15-metre (50-foot) tall warning towers along its southern coastline that will broadcast evacuation orders in six languages.

There were no early warning systems or evacuation plans when one of the strongest earthquakes in recorded history set of a tsunami that killed 228,000 people and left more than a million homeless in a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean rim on Dec. 26.

Tsunami-affected countries are taking various routes to deal with the next one which residents, unnerved with every big aftershocks, fear can happen at any time.

While the United Nations is spearheading an effort to set up early warning centres around the Indian Ocean rim, experts say it's the "last mile" -- when centres cascade the alarm down to remote fishing villages -- that is key to blunting the impact of the next tsunami.

Walagedo, a tidy little hamlet about 80 kms (50 miles) south of Colombo, is the first of Sri Lanka's Tsunami Protection Villages.

Chandrasana de Silva is in charge of sounding the horn, when the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau calls to warn of an approaching tsunami.

The horn sits atop a thin pole planted in a boulder on the beach behind his house and cafe on the main road. A twisted blue wire snakes out from a window by the phone, across the grass and palmettos, through coconut trees and over the beach to the pole.


De Silva acknowledges this is not an ideal arrangement. For one thing, he takes tourists on adventure excursions around Sri Lanka and is not home a good deal of time.

"This is just temporary," he explains. "Next month Colombo wants to connect direct to the siren."

Walagedo is meant to be the first of many villages with a tsunami protection plan - robust sirens on the beach, evacuation route signs posted on utility poles, public awareness campaigns.

It took the tsunami two hours to reach Sri Lanka's coastline. Indonesia was hit within a half hour.

Indonesia's reconstruction master plan proposes the construction of escape hills, scattered along Aceh's coastline on the northern tip of Sumatra. Made of concrete and covered with grass, the hills would be capable of accommodating 1,000 people at the flat top.

The hills would be situated to allow people to reach them within five to 20 minutes. The government is also planning three-storey earthquake resistant "escape buildings".

"They can choose the escape hill, the escape building or the escape roads," Ibu Chairani, head of the provincial public works department in Aceh, said in an interview.

"The priority is escape roads and then the buildings. The hills need a lot of land and that's expensive. Maybe an NGO (non-governmental organisation) has a budget for that."

One aid consultant working in Aceh was sceptical, saying the hills would have to be the size of a city block at the base to accommodate so many people at the top and would be impractical in an urban setting.

"The construction costs, even by cheap Indonesian standards, would be huge," the consultant said.


Thailand which staged the region's maiden evacuation drill on its tourist mecca of Phuket island has moved the fastest.

By the end of the year, Thailand intends to put buoys on the sea bottom that would transmit data of an approaching tsunami to the new National Disaster Centre, which will send out alerts to media, text messages to vast mobile networks and trigger sirens on 50 warning towers.

Foreigners spent $1.8 billion in Phuket last year and Thailand wants to broadcast a message that it is safe to stay on the tsunami-battered island.

The March 28 earthquake on Sumatra tested India's preparedness. Central and state governments issued alerts, and people fled risk areas as soon they saw or heard the first news flashes. The army, navy and air force went on alert.

But coastal communities along the Indian Ocean rim are often poverty belts with poor access to technology that could miss out on warnings, experts say.

So Sri Lanka is working on a "buffer zone" 100-200 metres (yards) from the sea, where no new building will be allowed, including for those who used to live by the beach. The decision has upset fishermen and hoteliers alike.

Indonesia considered its own building exclusion zone along the Aceh coastline, but abandoned the idea after public resistance.

An interim warning system for the Indian Ocean should be in place by October, mainly by upgrading an existing network of tidal gauges, Patricio Bernal, head of the U.N. Oceanographic body charged with that task, told Reuters.

A more sophisticated system using undersea buoys transmitting tsunami data to national warning systems should be ready before the end of next year, he said.

Then it is up to individual governments to plan their own emergency responses.

"Detecting a tsunami is only part of the problem," Bernal said. "The big problem is how to prepare societies and local populations so they can act appropriately to a warning."

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Thought provoking posers on agriculture

Daily News: Book Review: 14/06/2005" BY AFREEHA Jawad

HERE is an eye opener from India's Sage Publications to those that are heavily into agri-business instead of agri-food. Given the motives and importance under which it is carried out the Damocles Sword holds sway over the survival of the first while agriculture for food itself apparently is no one's concern.

One even cannot avoid entertaining an eerie feeling when perusing the book's pages thinking of what, the future holds for man and his home considering the large scale vandalism of the environment - an outcome of man's unquenchable quest for monetary gain.

Sustainable Agriculture is this book's theme as revealed in the title itself "Sustainability in Agriculture", which discusses the meaning of sustainability and sustainable development and reviews related issues.

While examining theory and practice of indicators it also delineates what is necessary for a holistic evaluation - productivity, stability, efficiency durability, compatibility and equity, describing the types of indicators needed within each of these through indicators and sample calculations.

Significantly writers' observation of marginal land depletion due to converting such which support tropical rain forests, the productive land loss caused by erosion, salinisation, desertification etc, new grains and associated management practices, plant nutrition using inorganic chemical fertilizer, pest control and so on impact negatively on food security and rural life.

The book also points out bio-diversity losses, natural habitats' destruction, over consumption of surface water and ground water, soil contamination by organic biocides, microbial and nitrate contamination of drinking water and the release of greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide all old hat, but worthy of repeat.

While highlighting the importance of all such negative impacts, the writers emphasise the need for sustainability in agriculture which they describe as the activity of growing food and fibre in a productive and economically efficient way using practices that maintain or enhance the quality of the surrounding environment - water, soil, air and all living things.

Sustainability is also seen supporting life's health and quality of farmer families and community as a whole.

Very correctly they send out a warning thus, "should our surroundings be altered in a way that life itself is endangered, no social or economic manipulations would suffice to revive sustainable life and hence the need for integrity of environment."

They unhesitantly continue thus: "Sustainability is an all encompassing vision of what life ought to be where all physical and social sciences, religion, philosophy and ethics come together for a comprehensive view of the various issues related to sustainable development and its assessment in a tropical country." Citing two examples:

"Forest cutting brings income but has adverse environmental consequences".

"Net and deep sea fishing brings income to fisherfolk but threatens source" - the writers bring out the short term economic and social benefits of development.

This then reminded the reviewer of how early man when out hunting would not hound one of the game species, the following day fearing resource depletion - ironically a far cry from modern man that cannot see such worldly wisdom despite all the "learning". The more we learn the less we understand, particularly half learnedness.

They in fact were not wrong in worshipping the moon, sun stars, rivers trees and so on. The loss of regard for such environmental life givers threaten even man's existence today.

In one voice the authors - Gary W. Van Loon, S.B. Patil and L.B. Hugar emphasise the importance of air, water and soil as being main concern areas in the subject of agriculture and human life.

They also call for the quality of resources on which production is based to be maintained and even enhanced. "Therefore soil and water in ample quantity and good quality is important" - they say.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

A plan to combat poverty

Daily News: 13/06/2005" BY J. B. Muller

REAMS of Working Papers and reports have been written about rolling back the many harmful forms of poverty ranging from begging on the streets to criminality to prostitution.

Then, Sri Lanka has had 12 governments and nine national leaders since independence in 1948 all coming forward on platforms that pledged and promised to wipe out poverty and want from our midst.

Billions of Rupees have been spent in a veritable plethora of programmes designed to tackle various aspects or the worst effects of poverty. But what, if anything at all has been done to strike at the root causes of poverty and deprivation? Nothing really effective has been done.

Therefore, the poor are still with us and their numbers have grown. Many speeches have been delivered at seminars, colloquiums, and what-have-you, all to no avail when you consider the statistics vis-...-vis the growth of population.

What they do reveal is the alarming growth of poverty, crime and vice at an ever-increasing rate. The form and content of socio-economic development has also brought in its train certain forms of impoverishment and dependence that are wholly unacceptable.

This writing is not meant to add to those mountainous reams of unread papers and reports. It is meant to suggest to the caring and concerned (including those who are fearful in their own enlightened self interest) a viable and sustainable solution that could be applied immediately with the human and financial resources we now possess within the borders of Sri Lanka.

Any viable solution needs to consider two, simultaneous courses of action: Attacking the worst aspects of poverty and a strong focus on eradicating the core causes of poverty, especially a radical change of structures that perpetuate poverty.

The solution proffered stated simply means, implies and entails substantial and sustained giving to create and establish a major prosperity generating trust fund that would finance practical, hands-on programmes designed to reduce the effects of poverty to the irreducible minimum.

This needs the unstinted and unqualified support of the private sector as the most important and major stakeholder in rolling back the effects of poverty. The other major stakeholder in this would be the public sector through funds voted by Parliament for line ministries.

It does not involve the establishment of another governmental agency but rather a drastic rationalization and merging of several agencies and departments into one wholly independent multi-faceted organization answerable directly only to Parliament and free of:

1. political direction or interference,

2. multilateral financial institutions, and

3. non-governmental organizations

The private sector's nominated representative should ideally be the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka, FCCISL, as it is the appropriate apex body representing the entire private sector with the Organization of Professional Associations providing both support and intellectual input in strategizing a holistic approach to confronting and combating poverty in all its manifestations.

This also means and implies a consensual, co-operative effort by both Government and the leading organizations of civil society to work together without hang ups about the past and past efforts to work together that did not work out because of either political prejudices or misperceptions by either side. Politics has to be laid aside; the antipathy of the private sector towards Government, too, has to be laid aside.

In any event, widespread and ever-increasing poverty weakens the entire country and a weak country could easily fall prey to radical solutions claiming to change the situation for the better. The effects of poverty as manifested across the continuum throughout society are becoming unmanageable because of increasing complexity.

The solutions now demand not only a multi-disciplinary thrust but a coherent, coordinated focal point to come to grips with its most serious manifestations and the main meeting point should be in rehabilitating the human beings affected.

Recent surveys conducted by the Police have revealed that 706 children in the city of Colombo do not receive any education at all; 325 of them are girl-children and of this number, 163 are to be found in the Modera-Mutwal-Mattakkuliya area; thousands of other children are sexually exploited by foreign paedophiles along the coastal tourist belt.

HIV/AIDS infections have been growing steadily and are now numbered in the thousands; Drug trafficking and drug abuse is now rampant throughout the country and have become endemic amongst the poor who have been inducted into addiction and now support their habit through crime and vice.

Thousands of beggars and prostitutes (male and female) swarm the streets of both the conurbation as well as every other urban centre throughout the country.

The total is staggering and the numbers are not mere ciphers but living, breathing human beings-from infants suckling at the breast to men and women bent with age and infirmity.

Seen another, human way, these are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, nephews and nieces, and so on with similar aspirations to those in the middle and upper classes of society, with need of food, clothing, shelter, health care, protection from exploitation and all the other evil under the sun that human beings are subject to.

Most, if not all the social and economic ills that society suffers from are directly traceable to deprivation and marginalization--poverty, which is the catchall, blanket phrase that hides more than it reveals of the dark, macabre and ugly face of our society.

Those comfortable members of the upper strata of the social and economic pyramid, inhabiting their well-constructed cocoons would do well to consider what history teaches us: For one thing society moves in two directions simultaneously--the rich get richer as their wealth generates more wealth whilst the disadvantaged sectors become ever more desperate.

The poor are not only subject to greater exploitation and oppression by the rich and powerful but to highly sophisticated forms of corruption in high places that deny the marginalized equal access to available opportunities.

Russia was a modernizing country in 1917 when the revolution erupted during the last but one year of World War I; Cuba is another country that began the process of its own modernization in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898, and which had its own bloody revolution in 1959.

The history of both the 19th and 20th centuries are littered with many forceful examples where the wealthy elites refused to acknowledge their social responsibilities in a human way and themselves ended on the dung-heap of history. Let it not be said in a sad if not tragic requiem that: "Few save the Poor, feel for the Poor." (Letitia Landon).

Therefore, of primary concern now is the establishment of a trust fund that could effectively spearhead viable initiatives to roll back poverty in the urban, rural and plantation sectors of the economy. Such a spearhead could transform poverty into prosperity, changing lives and lifestyles, vastly increasing the buying power of consumers because of the vibrant impetus it has the potential to generate.

If some doubters would attempt to contradict all this then a viable option would be a pilot project that could be launched and within an year, on the impartial evaluation of results obtained, the project could be expanded into a multi-faceted programme that would tackle several areas at once, for example, in training school dropouts in skills and trades required by the construction industry; in schooling the unschooled or providing them with livelihood training; in the training of girl-children in occupations that would guarantee gainful self-employment, and so on.

In the rural and plantation areas, the focus would be on reviving the much-abused co-operative system, revamping and strengthening it through information and communications technology to serve both producer and consumer. Places to locate training facilities are available; trainers, too, are available.

If anything, courage and a strong political will are required on the side of Government to affect a turnaround. On the part of the private sector it would require both sacrifice and generosity of both spirit and purse to build up a substantial trust fund and the investment of time to demonstrate concern by shepherding this initiative until it becomes self-sustaining.

As stated, it will take courage, lots of courage and perseverance, to transform the poor into socially useful and productive workers who would be too embarrassed to beg.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." (Margaret Mead, world renowned anthropologist).

(The writer is Founder, Prime Facilitator, Governor and Executive Director of The English Language Foundation and is associated with Dame Lorna Wright, Founder/President of MOM Foundation and long-time social activist in the promotion of skills training for school drop-outs, the unschooled and the poorest of the Poor.)

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Legal aid program on upswing

Daily News: 11/06/2005" BY SARATH Malalasekera

THE Legal Documentary Service and Legal Aid for Tsunami Victims conducted by Legal Aid Commission in collaboration with the National Centre For Victims of Crime, Sponsored by Asia Foundation, has been held countrywide since January 2005.

Several mobile services including legal aid clinics, Registrar General's Department (RGD), Registration of Persons and awareness programmes in Ampara, Galle, Kalutara, Hambantota, Matara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Muttur were held during the past five months, said Legal Aid Commission Chairman S. S. Wijeratne.

The Legal Aid lawyers held mobile legal aid clinics to assist the displaced persons in several places in the South and in the East.

Legal Aid Commission provided logistical support to officials of Registrar General's Department (RGD) and Registration of Persons Department (RPD) in their mobile programmes to expedite the issuing process.

Awareness programs were held for Grama Seva Niladaris, Divisional Secretaries on laws relating to Tsunami (Special Provisions) Act, Applicability of Mediation Law, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, in Galle Kalutara, Matara, Hambantota, Ampara.

Some of these were graced by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse with the assistance of respective Divisional Secretaries, the LAC Chairman said. A special program would be held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute on June 12, for all Divisional Secretaries in tsunami affected areas, LAC Chairman Wijeratne added.

Legal Aid Commission (LAC) was actively involved with the Ministry of Justice in drafting the Tsunami Act, which provides for issue of death certificates, custody of children and young persons, application of prescription law and section 66 of Primary Procedure Act, rights of tenants of premises and offences in respect of tsunami relief property.

Legal Aid Commission has proposed to the Ministry of Justice to activate Mediation (Special Provision) Disputes Act No. 21 of 2003 which qualifies mediators to mediate in tsunami related disputes prior litigations.

LAC Chairman S.S. Wijeratne addressing several seminars during their programmes in the South said that the Legal Aid Commission affords legal redress to the many who are in need.

The Legal Aid Commission consists of Chairman S. S. Wijeratne AAL, Dr. H. J. F. Silva AAL, Manohara R. de Silva AAL, Upali A. Gooneratne AAL, Rohan Sahabandu AAL, Ms. Swarna Perera AAL, S. Suntharalingam AAL (Director) and Ms. Lilanthi de Silva (Secretary).

Legal Aid Commission is situated at 129, High Court Complex, Colombo 12 - Telephone - 2433618, 5335329 and 5335281.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Yearning for return to normal life

MercuryNews.com 06/13/2005 : By Lisa M. Krieger
MULLAITTIVU, Sri Lanka - Every morning, fisherman Santhirathas Santhiapillar awakes and walks the soft white beach of this coastal village.

He's not looking for his boat or his home, both taken by the waves. Or his wife and two of their children, also gone.

What he's seeking, months after the Dec. 26 tsunami, is work. If he can find a job with someone who has a boat, he need no longer spend empty days in a refugee camp, haunted by the past. He can feed his one surviving child, 10-year-old Mary.

Then, maybe he can start healing.

``I want to get back to the sea. I want to work,'' said Santhiapillar, 39, a powerfully built, soft-spoken man. ``But there are no boats, no jobs. How long can we wait?''

In the weeks immediately after the retreat of the giant waves, the Sri Lankan coastal people had profound physical needs: hunger, thirst and shelter from the island's many poisonous snakes and the blistering sun.

Now it is their hearts that ache.

``I used to work hard, eight to 10 hours a day. It was unpredictable, but I could support my family,'' Santhiapillar said. ``Now, I don't know what to do with a child. I had never before combed her hair or anything.''

That had been the job of his wife, Purianayaki, 34. His job was to fish.

Simple needs

Experts visiting the tsunami-ravaged regions say survivors don't need psychotherapy, Prozac or the once-popular debriefing sessions, during which a traumatic event is repeatedly discussed. Psychiatry is not a part of the Sri Lankan culture; there are fewer than a dozen psychiatrists in the entire nation and none in this isolated Tamil region in the northeast.

What they need is far more mundane: work, school, a chance for spiritual reflection and the chance to help others.

Fishing towns in Sri Lanka were particularly hard hit. While Sri Lanka does not have a caste system like India, fishermen are the poorest economic class.

The tsunami destroyed or badly damaged about two-thirds of the region's boats. Worst hit were the small non-motorized boats owned and operated by the poorest of the community. Survivors cannot afford to buy or build new boats, so donors have offered to supply them. But the new boats have yet to arrive; some have been held up at the port of Colombo by high tax bills.

This once-thriving beach community, where most families earned a living from fishing the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, has been reduced to rubble. Of the 6,000 residents who once lived here, 3,000 vanished in the waves.

Survivors have moved inland and are living in clusters of huts newly built of cinder block, their thatched roofs covered by plastic tarps bearing the names of international relief agencies. The only motorized vehicles are the massive air-conditioned sport-utility vehicles transporting agency volunteers.

The mothers tend to their children. The children go to school and play. But the fathers do nothing, because there is nothing to do.

Fateful day

Santhiapillar sat on the rubble that remained of a once-elegant Catholic church, and recalled the instant that changed his life. ``On Sundays, I usually go to the sea. But it was drizzling. It looked like rain,'' he said. ``That day, my son said, `Today let's be together.' So we stayed at home to have breakfast. My wife brought breakfast. When all five of us had been served, I heard the noise. I saw a house, the third house on our street, coming toward us. That's all I know.''

London psychiatrist Manga Sabaratram has visited survivors in schools and camps in Mullaittivu and neighboring communities.

Their experiences -- and emotional responses -- vary greatly from one person to another, she found.

One patient had left her 3-year-old child in the care of her mother when she went to work the morning of Dec. 26. ``Now they're both gone,'' Sabaratram said. ``For two months, she tried to talk -- but her voice would not come out. It did not exist. Now she's beginning to talk. What does she say? She says she doesn't want to go back. She wants to leave the country.''

Another lost all three children. She found two bodies, but not the third. ``So she is walking from place to place, looking for the child, in hopes that it is still alive somewhere,'' said Sabaratram. The doctor hopes that a grieving ceremony that is planned in the village will help the exhausted mother give up her search.

``We do basic counseling, not therapy,'' she said. ``It's listening, helping them talk about their priorities, helping them learn how to solve one problem at a time.''

She visits a school next to a freshly dug cemetery and newly erected counseling tent. The school is luckier than others. It was untouched by the waves and reopened a week after the tragedy.

For the youngest survivors, she uses fairy tales and music to boost their spirits. Her college-age daughter tells the children stories, and Sabaratram plays a recorder while the children play along on smaller plastic models.

``Children don't want to sit and talk about their problems; that's not therapeutic for them. But music -- that can lift their moods,'' she said.

While teachers and school administrators tried to return children to schools quickly, healing will take time.

``They have not yet recovered. There are those who can't concentrate, or don't want to concentrate,'' said Sivagowry Sivagnanam, 30, a primary school teacher. ``But when they're in school, while they're learning, they forget. We try to make it so interesting so they will not worry.''

To ease their anxieties, ``we gave them a description of what happened, and why. We want them to not be afraid of the water, to have confidence,'' said Sivagnanam, whose school lost 50 of 500 students. ``Now they talk about the tsunami. They're not scared to use the word any more.''

After classes end

But the hours after school are tough for children, especially for those who have lost a parent, brother or sister, she said. Sometimes the school holds evening homework sessions to keep them occupied.

Of the 5,905 families displaced by the tsunami in this district, 2,124 are living in refugee settlements. The rest are staying with friends and relatives.

The Mullaittivu district's emergency task force wants to resettle families in more permanent settings by giving each family land and assistance to build houses. But that will take money.

Permanent resettlement poses practical and political problems. The Sri Lankan government wants families moved away from the beach, but fishermen do not want to live inland, in snake- and mosquito-infested swamps far from their boats.

So officials are seeking landowners who own suitable coastal property to sell, making it possible to resettle the fishermen and their families off the beach, but out of the jungle. Until the government finds places for thousands of coastal residents, their lives are in limbo.

Some wealthier families have managed to raise private money to rebuild, but most poor fishermen have no access to private funds and are not able to secure a loan.

For now, survivors live in uncertainty. They spend their time searching for scraps of nets, then tying them together to cast out in shallow waters.

``They fish in lagoons for shrimp and sardines,'' said Thushiyanthan Kanapathipillai, a coordinator for refugee services at a camp of 2,500 people. ``But it is not enough to feed their families. They're depressed because they're not making anything and not doing anything.''

Joining in effort

Experts say survivors also find relief from their own suffering by helping others. They need schools, churches, mosques and temples ``to congregate and be spiritual, so they can work through what they've experienced,'' said Dr. Richard Mollica, director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Mollica and his colleagues recently returned from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, another region still reeling from the tsunami. His program has worked for 25 years to study the effects of war, violence and natural disasters from Croatia to Cambodia on survivors' mental health.

But, Mollica says, ``work is the single best anti-depressant to get through a crisis. The worst thing you can do is force people into long-term idleness and dependency.''

Fisherman Soosaipillai Arasaratram, 43, would agree. Like Santhiapillar, he used to take his bright red boat out to catch salmon, shark and kingfish. ``Now everything is destroyed,'' he said. In the refugee camp where he lives, he said, organizers are distributing new boats by lottery, but the pace is slow: ``Three boats at a time -- for 95 families.''

``By the time I get a boat, I'll be dead,'' he said. ``So we're just getting food and waiting. How long will we get this kind of support? If there is a job, I will do it.''

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Sri Lanka setting up natural coastline barriers

AngolaPress - News:
COLOMBO, 06/12 - Sri Lanka is setting up natural barriers along its 1,280-kilometer coastline to protect the island country from natural and man-made calamities, said the Sunday Observer.

The natural barriers to be set up include the re-establishment of san dunes along the coasts, the protection of mangroves and the cultivation of a range of plants which grow along the coasts, including coconut, kotamba, wettikeya and other useful plants.

The country has launched a pilot project of this kind in the southern Galle district which was heavily hit by last year`s tsunami that killed nearly 40,000 people in the country.

Some NGOs currently working in the country to counter the damage sustained by the tsunami, have readily pledged funds and other assistance for the project, said the report.

The schools along the coasts of the Galle district had agreed to maintain the natural barriers which will be developed.

The development of natural barriers and consequent handing them over to the schools of each locality will be extended to all tsunami hit areas, and in time around the country`s coastline.

Stretches of beach where naturally occurring dunes were untouched by man, including Potuvil and parts of Yala, suffered very little or no damage when the tsunami struck, experts said.

There is much biodiversity in the country`s coastal belt in estuaries, lagoons and marshes amounting to 120,000 hectares of which 80,000 hectares consist of deep lagoons and estuaries.

The rest are shallow lagoons, tidal flats, mangrove swamps and saline marshes which must afford benefit to the people.

Since the tsunami last year, the Sri Lankan government has repaired some man-made coastal barriers such as boulders, groynes, revetments and breakwaters built in the sea.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Reporters sans frontires - Sri Lanka - Annual report 2005

Reporters Without Borders: The stalling of the peace process between the government and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) was accompanied by a deterioration in press freedom. But it was violence by Tamil factions, sometimes manipulated by the security forces, that most threatened journalists' safety and freedom of expression.

A schism between the LTTE and a group headed by the warlord Karuna unleashed a wave of violence from March 2004 for which journalists paid a heavy price. The LTTE had issued the stark warning : "It has been decided to rid our territory of Karuna, to save our nation and our people". Terror became widespread on the island where Karuna has numerous supporters. They were behind the murder on 31 May, of Aiyathurai Nadesan, correspondent in Batticaloa for several Tamil media. Just a few weeks earlier he had told Reporters Without Borders, "We are caught between a rock and a hard place. It is very difficult for us to check reports either with the security forces or the Tamil Tigers. And when a news item on local events is datelined Colombo, it puts us at risk of reprisals on the ground." He was the first Sri Lankan journalist to be murdered since October 2000.
Around 15 other reporters have received death threats from one or other faction. Some have been forced to take refuge in Colombo or flee to Europe.
Newspapers believed to be close to the LTTE have been targeted by Karuna's men, the pro-government Tamil militia the EPDP and the security forces. Tamil newspaper Thinakkural was threatened with reprisals by Karuna and thousands of copies of the newspaper were burned in the east of the country.
Dharmaratnam Sivaram, head of the news website tamilnet.com, opposed to the Karuna split, received threats from armed Tamil groups as well as from the security forces. His home has twice been searched without an arrest warrant.
In November, a secret services officer in Jaffna, in the north, arrested Velupillai Thavachelvam of the Tamil daily Virakesari, telling him, "People like you had a lot of freedom under the Ranil government (…) but now the president is in charge and we can do what we want." Moreover, Tamil journalists have been threatened by representatives of armed Tamil groups in Australia, Canada and the UK for their coverage of the situation at home.
As a result of this brutality, journalists succumbed further to self-censorship, particularly correspondents for the national media in the north and east, where they could get little backup from their newspapers. The Tamil and Sinhalese services of the BBC World Service stopped broadcasting reports from their correspondents in the east for fear of reprisals.
The violence also put the peace process under threat. After the Media Minister acknowledged that members of the Sri Lankan army had helped the Karuna group, the LTTE exploited the situation to go back on its commitments in the peace process.

The LTTE accepts no criticism

The Tamil Tigers have systematically denied responsibility for any human rights violations. Their political leader S. P. Tamilselvam, told Reporters Without Borders that "freedom of the press was respected" throughout the territory controlled by his movement. Even though Tamil newspapers can be sold more or less freely and LTTE publications are distributed without significant obstruction in zones controlled by the Colombo government, the LTTE blocks distribution of the Tamil weekly Thinamurasu that is close to another armed group, the EPDP. Despite the intervention of Norwegian mediators who are monitoring the ceasefire, the LTTE harassment has persisted. The editor of Thinamurasu explained to Reporters Without Borders, "We pay a price for our independence. The LTTE expects all Tamil media to say nothing about any of its abuses. Those who do not comply are harassed". When a journalist on Thinamurasu, Kandasamy Iyer Balanadarajah, was shot dead on 16 August, everyone pointed the finger at the LTTE. But the movement's leaders told Reporters Without Borders that the journalist had apparently been killed by fellow members of the pro-government militia, the EPDP, since he had been planning to leave both the movement and the country.
Some Muslim journalists have also suffered LTTE harassment. The Muslims are the country's third largest community and claim a role in peace talks. "Covering the activities of the Tamil Tigers is a risky business for provincial journalists. We cannot directly attack the LTTE. To survive we give them space in our newspaper," said M. P. Azar, editor of the weekly Navamani, based in the east of the country.
The ethnic divide in the press - Sinhala and Tamil are very different languages - does have negative effects for freedom of expression. The non-governmental organisation Centre for Policy Alternatives recently said, "Many newspapers consider ethnicity to be unchangeable and innate. (…) The Sri Lanka media exacerbates community and ethnic tensions by continually playing on people's national and religious feelings". Stereotyping and manipulation are frequent in coverage of tensions between Muslims, Tamils and Sinhala. During the election campaign in March and April, some speeches by candidates from the extremist Buddhist party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) were carried, including by the daily Lankadeepa, without any editorial comment even though they contained racist attacks against Tamils and Muslims.

President demonstrates hostility to independent media Violence was also directed at the press during the April legislative election campaign that resulted in victory for the coalition headed by Chandrika Kumaratunga. A grenade was thrown at the home of the managing director of the Asian Broadcasting Corporation in Colombo. This group is in conflict with the Media Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, who in February revoked the channel's terrestrial licence for a service it was set to launch within a few weeks. At the same time, Sri Lankan police searched the offices of The Sunday Leader, a Colombo-based weekly with a reputation for investigative reporting. Supporters of the extremist JHU physically attacked a crew from Young Asia Television in Kandy, central Sri Lanka.
The administration of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse has also blocked investigations into the murders of journalists. In October, the father of Nimalarajan, a BBC World Service correspondent in Jaffna, admitted defeat four years after his son was killed. "His memory remains with us and his family are still traumatised by what happened in Jaffna (…) every indication we have is that the pro-government Tamil party the EPDP is implicated in the murder. Why has the investigation been blocked ? A trial would bring immense relief to the whole family."
In fact, the Jaffna judge who is heading the investigation received no instructions from the prosecutor-general's office during 2004, even though the final report of the police investigation was sent to him in April. Police have not examined the case and remains of a grenade found at the scene of the crime, nor the prints found on a bicycle left near the journalist's home by his killers. All the suspects are still at large.
In the September 1999 murder case of Rohana Kumara, editor of the Sinhala weekly Satana (The Battle), members of the presidential security division or men linked to it have constantly prevented any breakthrough by protecting the obviously well-placed people who ordered it. In January, Dhammika Amarasinghe, suspected of the 2001 killing of the alleged murderer of Rohana Kumara, was killed in his turn in a corridor of Colombo's law courts by an army deserter. For more than five years, police have repeatedly put off completing the investigation and bringing him before a court.

Chandrika Kumaratunga has retaken control of the state-owned media. Newly-appointed Media Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, who is close to the president, said in June that the role of the state media would henceforth be to attack the main opposition party. The EU had just revealed that state television devoted 68% of its legislative election coverage to the alliance headed by Chandrika Kumaratunga.

In 2004…

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AIDS Numbers Low - Risk High

IP News: by Amantha Perera

COLOMBO, Jun 8 (IPS) - With only 614 confirmed cases of AIDS in a population of 19.5 million people and an HIV prevalence rate below 0.1 percent, Sri Lanka looks almost untouched by the deadly disease --but an epidemic is still possible, warn experts.

"We should not take this lightly -- there is a big risk," Dr Hemantha Wickramathileke, medical director of the National Family Planning Association (NFPA) told IPS.

A recent government report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) identified several groups in the South Asian island nation whose behaviours put them at high risk for the disease and admitted that, as in many developing countries, resources to proactively address the problem are limited.

(The MDGs, agreed by the world's governments in 2000, aim to halve extreme poverty, significantly cut maternal mortality and increase early childhood education, by 2015).

"Behavioural factors that facilitate the spread of infection are prevalent in the country, such as the presence of large numbers of sexually active youth, an increasing number of sex workers and overseas migration. These pose the threat that the disease can become concentrated in highly vulnerable groups and then become generalised if not combated at the early stages," said the report.

Widespread alcoholism, sexual abuse, poor sex education and low condom use have been identified as factors that fuel the spread of the disease, said the Colombo spokesperson for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Jeffery Keele. "Sri Lanka does have a low prevalence, but there is the potential for spreading," he affirmed in an interview.

Even the low figure itself could be due to low awareness and poor monitoring, according to HWJ Fernando, a former World Bank health expert now with the child rights group PEACE, which carries out AIDS awareness programmes.

"Most of the people don't come for testing. We believe that the confirmed cases can be as high as 8,500," he told IPS. Of an estimated 200,000 cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) contracted yearly only 15 percent of those affected seek treatment at government medical clinics, making detection even harder, he added.

Wickramathileke is also concerned about the long transmission window associated with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. "A carrier can remain without testing positive for sometimes as long as 10 years. During that window, the risk is enormous."

The report also identified high rates of internal migration and emigration of job seekers as areas of concern. Sri Lanka's long running civil conflict has left large parts of the population in the northeast internally displaced and living in transitional camps. Exacerbated poverty levels in the camps have led to high levels of partner exchange, the government document revealed.

Also, more than 100,000 Sri Lankans, the majority of them women, are employed in the Middle East and in India, which, according to health experts increases the risk of infection.

"What we have here is a dysfunctional family system due to a variety of reasons, and that creates an environment for casual sex," Fernando said.

According to a World Bank study, removing people from the traditional social structure increases their tendency to have multiple partners and to engage in casual and commercial sex. In 2001, 48 percent of the HIV cases identified in the country were women who sought employment abroad.

The concentration of large numbers of female workers in free trade zones and of military personnel at transit cities has been identified as another risk area. The NFPA has launched awareness programmes targeting these groups, but Wickramathileke admitted more effort is needed.

Even the military has recognised the need for awareness among soldiers, according to Military Spokesmen Brig Daya Rathnayake. "The Directorate of Medical Services regularly conducts programmes educating soldiers," he said in an interview.

The latest such programme is planned in the north-central city of Anuradhapura, a major transit hub for troops rotating from and to the conflict-ridden north.

NFPA research has found higher rates of STD spread and HIV in Anuradhapura compared to the rest of the country, mainly due to the presence of large numbers of commercial sex workers in the city, according to Wickramathileke.

Another risk area is the estimated 60,000 commercial sex workers in Sri Lanka, who, based on limited research to date, report a very low use of condoms.

In 2001 the government estimated that only 10 percent of sex workers used condoms. However, its recent report said that figure had increased to 50 percent by 2004.

The World Bank study said commercial sex workers lacked the ability to negotiate the use of condoms with clients or to seek treatment for STDs, making detection and prevention challenging. "Women and children in prostitution are considered most vulnerable to HIV infection," it said.

The Bank's research found that among men in the capital Colombo who said they had sex with casual partners, only 44.4 percent used condoms. The figure fell to 26.3 percent in rural Matale.

Though the growing use of condoms has been hailed by many social workers, NFPA's Wickramathileke sees in it a hidden danger. "What that means is a lot of casual sex, especially among the youth."

He is also concerned about risk groups that go undetected. NFPA has identified youth and university students as two such groups. "There is a lot of influence on the youth these days and we have a large youth population that is sexually active at a younger age than before," he said.

Sex education at primary and high school level is still not widespread and cultural taboos prevent educators from reaching the vulnerable groups. NFPA, with the help of the World Bank, has launched an awareness programme in the universities.

The Bank is among the main donors funding AIDS education in the country, including a 12.6-million-dollar grant to finance the National HIV/AIDS Prevention Project. UNICEF too has directed its resources at awareness programmes targeting adolescents.

At least on paper, authorities have admitted the need for action. "The government has recognised that although the total number of people living with HIV and AIDS in Sri Lanka is low, there is no guarantee that this number will remain low tomorrow," it said.

Wickramathileke, however, feels that a fundamental change needs to occur in national thinking if the risk is to be tackled in its infancy. "Sometimes governments try to play low when it comes to figures, but we need to recognise that there is pool of HIV carriers that is very dangerous." (END/2005)

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Humanitarian Situation Report - 3 - 9 Jun 2005

ReliefWeb - Document Preview : Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Date: 09 Jun 2005

Overall Situation

The Sri Lankan Government and the United Nations held a two-day workshop on 8 and 9 June in Colombo on lessons learned and best practices in the aftermath of the tsunami in Sri Lanka. The objective was for representatives of government, UN agencies, NGOs, donors and other key actors to collectively reflect on overall response and preparedness during the first eight-weeks of the emergency relief phase and identify ways to strengthen preparedness systems, procedures and mechanisms. The Workshop was opened with a speech by Mano Tittiwella, Senior Director General and Senior Advisor to the President and Chairman of the Taskforce for the Rebuilding of the Nation (TAFREN), with welcoming remarks by Miguel Bermeo, the UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, followed by presentations by Tilak Ranaviraja, Commissioner General for Essential Services and Chairman of the Taskforce for Relief (TAFOR), K. Ganesh, Government Agent for Jaffna, and Jeevan Thiagarajah, the Executive Director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA). For much of the two-day exercise, the 75 participants broke into five work groups to examine lessons learned -- what worked well and what didn’t -- in the areas of Institutional and Legislative Arrangements; Stand-by Arrangements; Response Mechanisms; Coordination; and Early Warning Systems. Participants made numerous recommendation to be compiled in a final report. They include the need to decentralize authority and decision-making to the district and local level; streamline and improve communication between central and local level government and amongst all actors; and greater collaboration and overall coordination between all parties involved in disaster response and management. They also recommended that equity be a standard in all emergency relief operations, and that in designing early warning systems, they should not simply be for tsunami warnings but a multi-hazard system that safeguards against a range of natural and man-made disasters. The Colombo exercise follows similar national workshops, all organized with the assistance of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), that were held in late May in the tsunami-affected countries of Thailand, the Maldives and Indonesia. Next week, 13 and 14 June, in Medan, Indonesia, a regional "Lessons Learned and Best Practices Workshop" will bring together key participants from the national workshops in all four tsunami-affected countries.

Women and children continue to be victims of violence and sexual abuse nearly six-months after the massive tsunami devastation in the Indian Ocean region, according to a report of researchers following a conference -- "After the Tsunami: Human Rights and Vulnerable Populations," held in Bangkok, Thailand 3 to 4 June. The conference was sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley's Human Rights Centre; the University of Hawaii's Globalization Research Center; and the East-West Center. In surveys of tsunami survivors and aid workers in five tsunami-affected countries - India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Thailand - the researchers found that vulnerable groups, including women, children and migrants, are suffering from violence and exploitation. The researchers found that abuses are being caused by a lack of protection for individuals who lost their homes and are living in displacement camps; aid distribution is often lacking or discriminatory because of corruption, favoritism and poor management; decisions about relief, relocation and reconstruction aid are largely taking place without consultation with the affected communities. In all the countries surveyed, cramped living conditions in temporary housing have surfaced such problems as sexual violence, alcohol abuse and physical violence," the study said. Despite the massive influx of aid, it concludes, little has changed for many survivors since the tsunami.

Coordination and common services

In order to strengthen the Departments of Fisheries and Agriculture in their coordination and data collection at the district level, FAO has fielded District Coordinators for the districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Hambantota and Galle. The coordinators will seek to cooperate with already established local coordination mechanisms. FAO has also fielded data-entry specialists for the districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Hambantota, Galle and Matara, who will be compiling a data base in the Department of Fisheries or Agriculture, ensuring that the Government and FAO have accurate district level data on relief/rehabilitation/development activities in the fisheries and agriculture sectors. The staff was trained by OCHA’s Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC). As well, FAO is supporting the Departments of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in several districts through provision of office equipment and vehicles to enhance their local capacity.

In Batticaloa district, a consultant for the German NGO, GTZ has established a database, using equipment provided by Save the Children, for tracking the requirements, distributions and beneficiaries in the fisheries sector.

Food security

In an update on its activities, WFP says it will continue to provide general food rations to beneficiaries with ration cards until the end of June and from July onwards, its response will involve a shift from targeting only tsunami-affected households to a more inclusive approach that considers pre-disaster vulnerabilities in the affected areas. WFP will pursue a range of more targeted and recovery-orientated activities, including vulnerable group feeding (estimated 300,000 beneficiaries until end of September), school feeding (115,000), maternal and child health (112,000) and food-for-work to rebuild roads and other damaged infrastructure (277,000). In an added effort to build the logistical capacity of the Ministry of Relief, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, its partner in its programmes, WFP handed over 85 motorbikes which where delivered directly to the government warehouse in Welisara. The shipment included 85 helmets and 85 jackets. In addition 40 computers were handed over to assist in the administration of the logistics, tracking, monitoring and record keeping. The computer package includes 40 printers, and 40 UPS. The total value of the current donation is in the region of US$ 100,550 or Rs10 Million.


To help children understand and come to terms with the grief and loss caused by the tsunami, Plan Sri Lanka released a book called "Searching for Punchi", in Colombo on 5 June. The colourful book is a fictionalised account of a Sri Lankan child’s attempt to cope with the loss of a pet that dies in the tsunami. Through this, the concept of coping with grief and issues related to the tsunami disaster are discussed. The book, published in English, Sinhala, and Tamil is be distributed to about one million school children throughout the island.

According to Medicine Sans Frontier’s March 2005 census of the population of Mandana camp, 592 families were residing there. Since March, the population in the camp has decreased with families gradually moving out as they receive transitional shelter or sought other accommodation. During the last week the rate of movement radically increased with some 130 families leaving during 3 to 5 June alone. The current camp population is now less than 200 families. The families left Mandana for several reasons, including lack of transport for school children and unconfirmed cases of rape and violence. The most compelling one, however, was a report of 21 cases of Hepatitis A in the camp. The report apparently evolved into a rumour of the existence of a yellow fever outbreak, which prompted a scare. The health sector in Ampara, which consists of government, UN agency and NGO representation, has been proactive in its efforts to identify the source of the disease; raise awareness about Hepatitis A and the necessary preventive measures to be undertaken by the affected families and the camp population. For example, the NGOs CAM, FORUT and Oxfam GB, along with the Ministry of Health Public Health Inspectors, have stepped up awareness raising activities regarding Hepatitis A and are explaining to camp residents and others the difference between Yellow Fever and Hepatitis A. Oxfam GB has also been doing water-quality checks of all drinking sources, including tanks, bladders and household containers.The OCHA Field Officer in Ampara has also been sharing educational information from WHO about the actual symptoms of Hepatitis A and Yellow Fever with all relevant actors.

Water and sanitation

On 1 June, FAO delivered 540 metres of flexihose and accessories to the Agrarian Service Centre (ASC) in Trincomalee. The ASC will use the equipment to rehabilitate saline wells on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast under supervision of the staff of the provincial agricultural department.

Non-food items and shelter

In response to the need to improve some temporary shelters in Batticaloa district, Oxfam GB has provided houses with solar lanterns and improved, smoke-less stoves as well as distributing building kits with basic tools.

The Salvation Army is opening branches in Kilinochchi and Jaffna as part of its Sri Lanka Emergency and Recovery Programme and will be principally involved in housing construction and rehabilitation.

Habitat for Sri Lanka, a team of students from the East-West Center Asia Pacific Leadership programme and the University of Hawaii, has raised US$10,300 to assist in rebuilding housing in the tsunami-devastated country. Kathy Tran, an EWC student, recruited the 10 members of Habitat for Sri Lanka, who come from the United States and Asia. From 14 to 30 June, the students will work alongside villagers in Sri Lanka, building houses for homeless families. Since the Indian Ocean tsunami, Habitat for Humanity has worked in affected countries to meet short- and long-term shelter needs. In Sri Lanka, the non-profit organization plans to build at least 10,000 houses in tsunami-devastated areas. The average cost of a Habitat house in Sri Lanka is about US$1,600. The East-West Center is an independent, non-profit education and research organization established by the U.S. Congress in 1960. The Center promotes the development of a stable, prosperous and peaceful Asia-Pacific community through cooperative study, education and research.


On 2 June, FAO distributed approximately US$95 000 worth of material used for boat repair to Cey-nor repair centres in Beruwala, Galle, Matara, Kudawella, Tangalle and Kalmunai.


The Protection Task Force in Batticaloa, which is composed of government, UN agency and NGO representatives conduct on 9 June, a workshop on tsunami fears principally for residents of Thiraymadu. The Taskforce is exploring the possibility of establishing a mobile workshop for other communities in the district.

In Hambantota the NGO Plan International introduced the "Happy/Sad Letter Box" - 100 of them in all, that are placed in 25 school communities. Children can drop their letters to school counselors in the boxes for appropriate action.

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