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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, March 31, 2006

Sri Lanka: Post-Tsunami Update Jan/Feb 2006

ReliefWeb: 17/03/2006" Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Successes to build upon

As reported in this issue the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) is reviewing the housing sector in order to clarify policy issues and strengthen coordination mechanisms between Colombo and the Districts. This should translate into more coordinated support for the districts, improved communication and faster progress on the whole reconstruction process.

We are seeing slow but steady recovery in the livelihoods sector. Finding both short-term employment and longer term sustainable opportunities was always going to present one of the greatest challenges. However, as can be seen by initiatives discussed in this Post Tsunami Update, progress is being made with both training and real job creation. It is essential that the successes to date are built upon and that positive models are replicated in all tsunami affected areas.

Obviously challenges will remain. But with initiatives like the Disaster Relief Monitoring Unit of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of Sri Lanka partnering with UNDP to establish Help-Desks in the affected districts, this will increase awareness among tsunami-affected persons on their rights and entitlements. The UN remains committed to supporting the government in its efforts to ensure that those rights and entitlements are realized.

Miguel Bermeo
UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Sri Lanka

Focus on Housing Policy Bears Fruit

A recent sharper focus on housing has produced a flurry of positive policy activity which will lead to families receiving housing solutions sooner rather than later.

The home-owner driven housing programme, building back on the home owner's original land, continues at a steady pace with government sources predicting that all the partially damaged house owners outside of the original buffer zone will receive their final grant payment before the end of May 2006. Including those affected by the December 2005 'buffer zone' changes, more than 60,000 families have received first installment housing cash grants (fully and partially damaged).

As a result of the December changes it is now estimated that there are an additional 15,000 families who have the opportunity to return to their original land (assuming that they have not already been housed). Currently they would receive the government grant of either Rs. 250, 000 for a fully damaged house or 100,000 for a partially damaged house. Many NGOs have also made additional payments or provided labour and materials to support families rebuilding their own homes. When full surveys of the new 'buffer zone' are completed it is likely the 15,000 figure will increase, which may reduce the number of houses required in the new relocation sites (donor-driven programme).

The government is also actively seeking NGO assistance to supplement the home-owner grant in order to get families back in to houses as quickly as possible. Home-owner driven housing is increasingly seen as far better value for money, and some argue that the quality is higher as families participate in the whole building process. In addition, the active engagement of families is seen as a positive developmental approach to reducing some of the dependency created by the tsunami. Clearly some professional and technical support is required as many families will not have individual capacities to rebuild their own houses and it is imperative that quality standards are maintained through active monitoring.

The authorities are keen to ensure that beneficiary lists, clearly showing the names of all families entitled to housing, are transparently developed and displayed in appropriate locations in the districts. There is an urgent need to ensure that every family entitled to a house is informed of which housing solution is available to them, and approximately when that family could expect to move in to the new house.

There will continue to be a large number of families whose houses are still in the new 'buffer zone' and these will have to be relocated to land further from the sea. These donor-driven relocation scheme sites will therefore be made up of all the families from within the new buffer zone (as defined in December 2006), plus any other categories of beneficiaries who are entitled to a donor-driven relocation house.

Housing policy is complex and there are several types of beneficiary depending both upon where they lived in relation to the 'buffer zone' and also what type of land tenure 'agreement' was in force at the time of the tsunami (owner, renter etc). Depending on policy, some beneficiaries will clearly be presented with a choice regarding what type of housing scheme they join. To enable people to make the right choice it is important that they have the correct information on any entitlements or support that they will receive, either from the government or from donors/NGOs. In the absence of such clear information people will be unable to decide which choice is most appropriate for them, and the delay caused will not be in the interest of families, the authorities or the donors. A large number of housing agencies are now strongly advocating for a clear nation-wide public information campaign to begin as soon as policies have been clarified.

The government's current estimate is that approximately 30,000 houses are required to be built in the donor-driven relocation programme. To date 5,481 houses have been completed and a further 8,582 are under construction. In the Home-owner driven programme almost 20,000 houses are now estimated to be complete (both partially and fully damaged houses). Construction is expected to significantly increase throughout 2006 and further increase in 2007.

The Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) is reviewing the housing sector in order to clarify policy issues and strengthen coordination mechanisms between Colombo and the Districts. This should translate into more coordinated support for the districts, improved communication and faster progress on the whole reconstruction process.

(Accurate at time of going to press)

Calming Down the Fear

Adults and children around the country continue to suffer the psychological impact of the tsunami. Guidance and counselling programmes in Sri Lankan schools are providing long-term assistance to teachers and students in providing emergency preparedness skills and training people to address and support the well-being of teachers and students affected by the tsunami.

The training programme implemented in 423 tsunami-affected schools around the country is part of the Ministry of Education's National Plan to Mainstream Psycho-social Well-being Through the Educational System, which will support 2,500 schools from across the Island.

It provides teachers with the skills to develop supportive relationships with their peers and students, initiate a school based emergency preparedness programme, as well as identifying vulnerable students in need of additional support, says UNICEF Psycho-social Advisor, Sarah Graham.

"The training tools allow teachers to develop relationships with students who are still coming to terms with the ordeal of the tsunami. They are based on materials developed in other disaster situations, but are specifically tailored to meet the needs of Sri Lankan students and teachers .

"The creative activities allow children to share their thoughts, fears and aspirations in a safe environment which in turn, leads to a better understanding of one another. It allows children and teachers to see that their reactions to and interpretations of events are normal and with a supportive network, the majority of children can thrive. Children identified as needing additional help are referred on to appropriate support networks".

The Devi Balika girls' school in Galle is one school that is benefiting from psycho-social training. On a morning in February, a bell rings in the school yard and children stop their activities to follow an emergency drill. The movements are familiar to the children now but, say teachers, their confidence in knowing what to do has empowered them to take responsibility if another tsunami should happen. The drills build confidence among children and teachers and calms their fears, says the Guidance Teacher at Devi Balika School, Ms. K.A. Chitra

"The psycho-social training we received after the tsunami has improved the level of support we can provide to children. If there is another tsunami, we can overcome fear and anxiety sooner. We can also identify specific problems among individual children, Mrs. Chitra says. "I've found that talking to a child is often the most important, and most effective, approach to the problem."

And getting teachers trained in this area is important not only in improving academic but also social outcomes, says Graham.

"By developing a teacher's communication skills, we improve the full learning environment. This allows not only for academic learning but the social development of all children," she says.

(By Jens Laerke and Leanne Mitchell, UNICEF)

The Tsunami Recovery Impact Assessment & Monitoring System (TRIAMS)

The tsunami witnessed an unprecedented multi-stakeholder effort to ensure a stronger level of accountability to the beneficiaries and donors as well as the general public alike, which was demonstrated in all the progress reports presented at both country and international levels on the occasion of the one year anniversary. Furthermore, there is a consensus among most tsunami recovery agencies that concern should not only be with operational outputs but also with the impact of our efforts on the lives of the population affected by the tsunami.

'Tsunami Recovery Impact Assessment & Monitoring System' (TRIAMS) is a World Health Organisation (WHO) /International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) joint initiative in close collaboration with the Office of the Special Envoy to the Secretary General (OSE), which was presented by WHO at the Global Consortium for Tsunami-affected Countries held in Washington DC on 22 September 2005. This initiative has also been given a special recognition in the one year report of the Special Envoy to the Secretary General, where it is listed as one of the priority activities to be undertaken in 2006. This project covers the five tsunami-affected countries in South-East Asia over the period 2006 to 2010. The project aims at assessing and monitoring the impact of tsunami recovery efforts, using various data collection methods, and will consist of core common indicators for five countries, and additional indicators that are country specific. IFRC and WHO in Geneva will coordinate at the global level with the political support of OSE, and each Office of the Resident Coordinator's of the UN will coordinate the activities at the country level. The policy and technical details of the initiative will be discussed among the five countries and other partners involved during a meeting in Bangkok to be held from 2-4 May 2006.

Full report (pdf* format - 413 KB)

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