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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. 

Friday, January 06, 2006

Post-tsunami survey reveals social disparities

Daily Mirror: 27/12/2005"

"The Tsunami has shattered the life of the community. Having overcome the initial emotional and physical difficulties without much time to think, they have reached a state of frustration. Not having an income source and courage to restart life has led communities worrying about not being able to achieve expectations they had before the Tsunami. These expectations relate to aspects like educating the children, achieving occupational targets, building a house and developing their property."

This has been revealed in a post-tsunami survey just concluded by the professional research organization, the Research Consultancy Bureau (RCB) on behalf of Sarvodaya supported by the World Bank. The survey was conducted among community leaders representing the tsunami affected communities in the South and the East. Six Focus Groups of community leaders with direct experience with the tsunami devastation at the relief and reconstruction stage participated in the survey. In the South, the survey was conducted at Koggala, Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa while in the East, the interviews were done at Vakrai, Kathankudy and Kaluwachikudy.

"Communities have started losing self-confidence and are displaying characteristics of insecurity", the report states. "Their frustration has been further aggravated when some communities realized that they are now no different to the poorest families in their community before the Tsunami."

The reaction to this change in the mindset and behaviour of the people has been identified in numerous changes in society. More pregnancies, an interest in sex and marriages, and deterioration in the religious values and/or relationships with the temple and the church have been noticed.

There has also been a tendency for people to move over to stronger or what they consider "better" brands of alcohol and cigarettes and to indulge themselves in various vices. With more money getting into their hands, they are more into alcohol, claiming that it helps them to forget their worries and overcome sadness.

The tendency to get married is primarily to obtain goodies which are given per household. There is even the possibility of getting a new house.

Meanwhile, some of the community members have shown keenness to share their resources to develop the community, as they believe that collectively they will have more bargaining power where they will be able to reach better standards of life in post-tsunami. "They were appreciative of assistance provided and repeatedly commented about harmony, unity, protection and importance of caring", the Report says.

However, several negative qualities have developed among the communities over the months after the tsunami. Among the characteristics identified by the community leaders as being prevalent in their communities, are animosity, laziness, dishonesty, jealousy, greediness and ungratefulness.

The Report states that occupation and employment was a major concern among the community leaders as communities represented by these leaders have displayed somewhat lower interest towards securing occupation and employment.

While the communities have received varied assistance to get back to their means of livelihood like fishing boats and other equipment, self-employment programmes conducted by the NGOs, and financial assistance from the State, these activities have not reached to a level of satisfaction of the community leaders as a larger proportion of the community are still idling in camps or new settlement areas.

Referring to the 100/200m rule, the Report says that there was a visible division in the community regarding the rule. While community leaders of the East believe that the 200metre rule was imposed by the Government for the goodness of the people for the protection of life and property, this view was not strongly seen by the leaders of the South.

“However, in both East and South some were of the view that there is an ulterior motive with regard to the implementation of the rule", it says. The Report has spelt out the perceptions both for and against the rule as well as the misconceptions.

The 100/200metre rule and its implications on the community also raise a concern about the post-Tsunami housing, especially among the communities within 100/ 200metre rule and beyond. Housing is seen as one of the most criticised areas of post-tsunami activities. Reasons for such criticism are due to the degree to which assistance is received, degree to which the problem of housing is understood by the provider, and concerns with the process of construction.

"Almost all community leaders were thankful to non-governmental organisations, individuals and, to some extent, to the State for their generosity in providing housing needs. Yet they questioned the prevalence of temporary houses even after seven months of tsunami. They have commented that the work completed so far was less than 50%.

This has led to substantial displeasure among the communities. The situation has worsened when communities found out that some families who were registered as a single family before the tsunami were now eligible to obtain two separate houses having registered as two families. Further, those who had wattle and daub or temporary houses have obtained brick and mortar houses. The concern is on the disparity of provision of assistance and transparency, integrity and fairness," the Report states.

It adds: " Tsunami has devastated communities regardless of individual status, but subsequent relief and reconstruction programmes have created visible discrimination with some communities receiving less than others or less than what they used to have, while there are also visible benefits for those who had less earlier now having more. Both seem to have created social disharmony leading to un-satisfactoriness."

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