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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, April 29, 2006

Global overview of trends and developments in 2005

ReliefWeb - Document Preview - Internal displacement: Source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Date: 22 Mar 2006.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council is pleased to present its Global Overview of trends and developments with regard to internal displacement covering the year 2005.
The report provides an analysis of the worldwide internal displacement crisis, at both global and regional levels, and includes sections highlighting a number of key thematic areas relevant to the lives of internally displaced people (IDPs). It is based on the wealth of information in the IDMC’s online IDP database, which contains detailed pro. les of internal displacement situations in some 50 countries worldwide.
We hope that this report – the only comprehensive yearly overview of global IDP-related developments – will serve to increase awareness and understanding of the worldwide internal displacement crisis and thus contribute to efforts aimed at improving national and international responses.
As the report clearly shows, little progress was made in 2005 with regard to preventing internal displacement and responding to the humanitarian and protection needs of the displaced in a timely and systematic manner.
National governments bear the main responsibility for this massive humanitarian and human rights crisis affecting over 20 million people worldwide. A disturbingly high number of governments not only failed to provide adequate assistance to IDPs on their territory but, worse, were themselves behind the deliberate displacement of parts of their population. The international community is to blame as well – for insuf- cient efforts at the political level to prevent or end con. icts and for the continued failure to set up a credible response to the needs of one of the world’s mostneglected groups.
There have been a number of promising new initiatives at the international level in 2005 to reform the humanitarian response system. But even if these reforms are fully implemented, much more decisive action is needed, in particular at the political level, to bring an end to the con. icts causing displacement and address their root causes in a serious and comprehensive way. Only then will it be possible to contain and eventually solve the global IDP crisis by preventing further displacement and creating conditions for the sustainable return or resettlement of the displaced.
The Global Internal Displacement Crisis: Trends and Developments
Slight decrease in IDP figures
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that at the end of 2005 some 23.7 million people were displaced within their own countries as a result of con. ict and gross human rights violations, some 1.6 million fewer than the previous year (1).
For the first time in nearly a decade, the estimated total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) went down by a considerable margin during the year. From the second half of the 1990s onwards, the global IDP . gure had increased dramatically to reach 25 million in 2001 and then remained almost unchanged at that level until 2004 (see chart 1), as year after year the scale of return movements or resettlements had been matched by equally large numbers of new displacements.
The decrease observed in 2005 appears to reflect a real trend, and is only to a lesser extent due to re-registrations or revisions of estimates not based on actual population movements or esettlements. In fact, the number of IDPs who were able to return during 2005 – an estimated 3.8 million – was almost double the number of people newly displaced in the course of the year 2.1 million). Compared to the previous year, significantly more people were able to return to their homes the majority of them in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – and far fewer were forced to flee their omes. However, in most cases there were serious concerns about the sustainability of returns as conditions in return areas were generally not conducive to lasting reintegration.
(1) Unless otherwise indicated, all IDP-related statistics in this report are based on data and analysis drawn from the IDMC’s IDP database (www.internal-displacement.org) which includes comprehensive pro.les of all countries affected by internal displacement, as well as a multitude of other resources relating to the issue of internal displacement.
Full report (pdf* format - 1836 KB)

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Inferior boatbuilding undermines tsunami recovery - Many post-tsunami boats "sub-standard," will need replacing

ReliefWeb - Document Preview - South Asia: : Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Date: 28 Mar 2006.

Rome, 28 March 2006– FAO today again urged authorities in tsunami-affected countries to redouble their efforts to ensure that fishing boats built to replace those destroyed during the 2004 disaster meet minimum safety standards.
The UN agency also called on all organizations financing boat construction to pay closer attention to the safety and quality of craft being built and to take steps to upgrade or replace sub-standard boats already in place.
Though firm figures are not available, reports from FAO staff in the field indicate that many replacement fishing vessels constructed since the disaster are seriously sub-standard.
In Indonesia an estimated 7 600 fishing boats were lost completely -- of those, some 6 500 have been replaced, of which an unknown number are unsafe.
In Sri Lanka, where almost 19 000 boats were destroyed, more than 13 000 boats had been replaced by the end of November 2005. FAO estimates that nearly 19 percent -- approximately 2 500 vessels -- are not seaworthy.
The problem encompasses both wooden boats as well as those with fibre-glass hulls, FAO said. Some are simply not safe to use, while others are likely to deteriorate more quickly than properly built craft.
"Fishing is already the world's most hazardous occupation, and working at sea in a sub-standard boat is doubly dangerous," said Jeremy Turner of FAO's Fisheries department.
"Another major problem is that these boats will need to be replaced -- in many cases within the next two years -- and as humanitarian aid shifts elsewhere, fishers will be left to foot the bill," he added.
Missing standards, lack of expertise
Many tsunami-hit countries do not have regulations governing the construction of small fishing vessels. This fact, coupled with the deaths of a number of experienced boatbuilders during the disaster, contributed to the current situation.
As NGOs and other organizations mobilized to help fishermen get back on their feet, they commissioned large numbers of new boats, sometimes from inexperienced builders.
"Following the disaster, new boatyards popped up like mushrooms, but not all of these builders were qualified -- suddenly you had furniture makers building boats," said Turner.
"Everyone has been acting in good faith, trying to do their best to build boats as fast as possible in order to help fishermen as soon as possible," he added. "It's just that many organizations simply don't have the expertise needed to make sure that boats are up to standard."
FAO workshops and training in boatbuilding
FAO has been working with national and local authorities, fishing communities and the private sector in tsunami-affected countries to improve the state of boatbuilding.
The agency published a "how to" primer in Indonesian on proper shipbuilding which is being used by craftsmen in Aceh and other affected areas. It also organized a series of workshops in Indonesia's AcehProvince, during which 42 boatbuilders worked with an FAO master boatbuilder to construct different kinds of craft, learning new skills and modern ship design and construction principles.
And FAO is working with local boatyards in Indonesiato promote the use of better quality timber, adequate metal fasteners and improved wood storage and construction techniques.
In the Maldives, 40 shipbuilders and ship inspectors have participated in FAO fibreglass boat construction workshops.
Safety regulations in the works
FAO's Fisheries Department is also working with national authorities to help them draft safety standards governing construction of small boats.
In Sri Lanka, new regulations for fibreglass boats, drafted with FAO technical guidance, are being considered for final approval by government authorities; the agency is working with Indonesiato develop similar regulations for wooden craft.
"The longer-term goal is to see governments bring boat construction regulations on-line, and to see the enforcement of those regulations so that only good quality boats can be registered and licensed to fish," Turner said.
"In the meantime, we hope that authorities will find ways to inspect new boats and insist that craft that don't meet basic safety standards be fixed or destroyed -- and that all those involved help shoulder the burden of doing so."
Online news from FAO: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Indian Ocean Tsunami: One year after the disaster

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: United Nations Foundation (UNF), Date: 29 Mar 2006.
One year after the tsunami, the United Nations, together with the international community, has made tremendous strides in the relief, rehabilitation and recovery effort with children back in school, survivors employed in rebuilding activities and ongoing food assistance to those in need. This report provides an overview of what has happened since the tsunami wiped out entire communities 12 months ago.
At 7:59 a.m. local time on December 26, 2004, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the waters off the Sri Lankan coast, triggering a massive tsunami that would eventually reach the shores of eight countries.
Soon, over 230,000 people were killed and an equal number were injured. Some 5 million more were in need of some form of emergency relief—medical attention, shelter, clothes, food—just to make it through the days ahead.
It was the second largest earthquake recorded in history and the worst natural disaster the United Nations and the global community had faced in its 60 years of operations. More than a third of the lives lost were children. Millions lost their way of life: a fisherman without a livelihood, a child without a family, a town without a hospital or school.
Over the past 12 months, the international community has come together to make significant progress on some of the most pressing issues concerning the affected areas. This has meant that children are able to go back to their schools, epidemics have been prevented, survivors are employed, there is ongoing food assistance to all affected families, and there is a common system of financial tracking.
The one-year anniversary of the tsunami provides an opportunity to reflect on accomplishments in the relief and recovery process to date, and to continue to focus on the challenging days which lie ahead. This report provides an overview of what has happened one year after the tsunami—stories of progress, partnership, and hope—and the lessons learned that will help manage the next disaster.
“We must set the stage for the efforts in the longer term, as we move from saving lives to recovery and reconstruction.” – Kofi Annan, UN Secretary–General
The challenges that lie ahead in the tsunami-affected countries are formidable. The unprecedented disaster was met by an equal outpouring of generosity – the most generous in history. In total, governments donated $6 billion, relief agencies and the international financial institutions donated $2.3 billion and private and corporate donations accounted for over $5.1 billion.
- The United Nations assumed the leading role in coordinating this historic international relief effort. The effort has involved a broad coalition of UN agencies, governments, aid agencies, NGOs, businesses, and local communities.
- The recovery process is on track. Over 2 million survivors have been fed, clothed, sheltered and protected from outbreaks of disease. Children across the region are back in school, immunized and, in most cases, reunited with their families.
- The approach is to “build back better” – going beyond restoring what existed and seizing the opportunity to promote more sustainable housing, education, health care and economic opportunities.
- It will take time to do it right. The United Nations is committed to executing the detailed work on the ground with the many partners, governments, contractors as well as local communities engaged for as long as it takes, to ensure promises made to the victims do not become promises forgotten.
- The UN is working with partners to rebuild over 500 new permanent and semi-permanent schools and restore the economic and social structures of the survivors.
Full report (pdf* format - 621 KB)

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Humanitarian Situation Report - Sri Lanka: 31 Mar - 6 Apr 2006

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 06 Apr 2006.

Overall Situation
The Reconstruction and Development Agency held a donor briefing on March 28 to inform on the need to provide support to families still living in transitional shelters until permanent solutions can be provided.
Hundreds of men, women and their children held a two-hour protest in front of the Trincomalee office of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) on 27 March. Members of four fisheries co-operative societies demanded that they be allowed to fish in the Trincomalee Harbor Sea, or be given relief to enable them to live without the income from fishing. The Sri Lanka Navy has imposed a complete ban on fishing in the Trincomalee Harbor Sea from the beginning of this year. Since then about two hundred fisher families living around the area have lost their daily income and are fighting for their survival.
OCHA Killinochchi reports that all agencies in Killinochchi spend much time in meetings with the LTTE’s Planning and Development Secretariat (PDS) and Government Agent (GA’s) to deal with technicalities, designs and complaints. OCHA Killinochchi has identified a need for a dedicated liaison person, to act on behalf of all of the agencies as a focal point for new directives, to channel complaints, and to answer concerns and be a central focus for information between the authorities and the agencies. The agencies are short staffed and need to concentrate on building, but time is being wasted in bilateral meetings. A focal point for construction could help to formalise and disseminate policy and work on advocacy issues across the board.
UNDP have launched a loan scheme through six participating banks for 50,000 Sri Lankan rupees over a three year repayment period with a six month grace period. A joint awareness campaign with the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) is ongoing to promote the loans.
IOM’s tsunami-affected people registration process continues on the east coast of Sri Lanka. On April 5, the registration process began in Batticaloa district. To date, information on 13,000 head of families (representing 50,000 people) had been collected in Ampara district. Since the commencement of the registration process in December 2005, some 110,000 heads of families have been registered -- this represents information on close to 450,000 tsunami-affected people.
Sri Lanka celebrated its first International Mine action day on 4 April. Mine related casualties have dropped by 75 per cent since the Cease Fire Agreement was signed.
World Health Day is on 7 April. The theme for this year’s World Health Day is “Working together for health” focusing on the health workers - the people who provide health care to those who need it - the heart of health systems. In Sri Lanka an opening ceremony on the morning of 7 April will be held and co-hosted by the Ministry of Health and will include speeches and seminars on the theme “Working together for health”.
Main challenges and response
The GA Kilinochchi had delivered a message from the Governor of the north and east that from 1 April 2006 volunteers can not be used in hospitals and schools. The head of the rural health institutions explained that many hospitals rely on volunteers to run, and most village dispensaries and rural hospitals may be paralyzed without them. Volunteers usually cover the most rural areas as well as the main health centres.
In Ampara concern has been raised regarding the deterioration of relations with the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources. Repeated requests for critical information on catch capacity, needs and gaps in the district, and policy information have been promised for months and not delivered.
Coordination and common services
The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) under the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment has signed an agreement with ILO to support training programmes for partners of multi-disciplines (surveillance personnel, care-givers, district child protection committee members and partners who support the elimination of child labour). As part of strategic interventions post-tsunami, the NCPA proposes to pilot-test the implementation of Minimum Standards and Guidelines for Care Giving Institutions in the tsunami-affected areas (6 centres have been selected) through a mobile unit comprising trainers from the NCPA. A module on the issue of corporal punishment is presently being developed by the NCPA and will be integrated into the training curriculum as well.
The consultants of National United Nations Volunteers DRMU visited Galle district to hold discussions with actors involved in Disaster Management in order to develop the National Plan for Disaster Preparedness and Response.
Food security
A team of WFP officials engaged in collecting new FFW (Food for Work) project proposals in Hambantota district from government counterparts and partner INGOs, for the year 2006. So far, more than 40 projects have been identified in the district under the FFW program. Training of health staff on the preparation and use of WFP’s supplementary food Corn Soya Blend (CSB) was also conducted in Hambantota.
OCHA Killinochchi reports that there are over 150,000 people in the district and nine health facilities, four medical officers of health areas with a staffing rate of 20 per cent. Kilinochchi needs 52 midwives but have only five. Kandaveli needs 11 public health attendants and have only one midwife. The district hospital in Killinochchi needs to be upgraded to a General Hospital.
OCHA Batticaloa reports that Wat/san actors raised their concern on Predeshiya Saba’s (local government institution) negligence in garbage disposal in the camps in Vaharai Division as it might create a major health hazard. It was decided to contact the Predeshiya Saba to point out their lack of action.
In collaboration with St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, UNDP Strong Places Programme organised a two-day First Aid Training in Matara Division on Tue 28 and 29 March for 64 members representing different community based organisations of the area.
Water and sanitation
The Regional Epidemiologist reported that soakage pits constructed for the permanent houses handed over to the beneficiaries in Kumpurupiddi, Kuchchaveli DS division in Trincomalee district were not appropriately constructed. The Public Health Inspector (PHI) of the area is taking necessary action to rebuild them. As a follow-up action, the Kuchchaveli DS was informed by of this issue and he requested the support of the PHI to inspect the construction before handover.
Permanent Shelter construction is in progress at Pavalkulam, Kuchchaveli DS division in Trincomalee district. The site does not have a water supply at the moment. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board reported that they are looking for feasibility and funding for new water schemes.
A proposal was submitted by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board to USAID. The proposal is to get funding to lay pipeline and provide water for the permanent shelter construction at Perker Road, Kuchchaveli DS division. USAID is in the process of determining the feasibility of funding this proposal.
The Public Health Inspector responsible for Sambaltivu mentioned that the entrance to the toilet and kitchen is very close at permanent houses under construction at Konesapuri, Town and Gravets DS division in Trincomalee district.
The French Red Cross is in the process of assessing the needs of latrines in inland areas in Batticaloa district. Once they complete the survey their plans will be shared with the Wat/san Task Force. French NGO, ACTED had distributed two Del Aqua kits to Batticaloa Deputy Provincial Director of Health and trained 49 Public Health Inspectors on water quality testing.
An assessment of UNICEF WASH supplies in response to the tsunami was conducted in Sri Lanka during 1 - 7 April. The main objective of the evaluation was to assess UNICEF WASH supplies during the three stages of the emergency: initial relief phase; early recovery phase; and the reconstruction phase. The evaluation team visited tsunami-affected districts including Galle and Hambantota where the team met with implementing partners and government officials. Visits to transitional and permanent housing were also made in order to obtain first hand impression of the level and quality of services provided
IOM in Ampara has started Hygiene Promotion workshops in Ampara district. The workshops are an ongoing programme expected to reach over 1,000 families still living in transitional shelters in the district. Almost 100 IOM shelter residents participated in the first two workshops held in Alayadivembu division. IOM continues water and sanitation activities in the districts of Ampara, Matara and Kalutara. To date, IOM has constructed over 300 toilets, and over 30 wells at transitional shelter sites.
On 28 March, 20 families living in tsunami-affected Godagama of Hikkaduwa, received Rainwater Harvesting Systems. The units have been constructed with the participation of beneficiaries and training has been given on the use and maintenance of the system. The funding is part of US$ 1 million that has been granted by USAID and the project is supported by UNICEF.
Non-food items and shelter
In Mullaitivu, Killinochchi district agencies are building 2,983 permanent houses under the co-financing system and the additional GA for Mullaitivu expects another 2,500 permanent houses to be built by agencies. The total need is 5,464 permanent houses. (2124 transitional shelters were built).
In Killinochchi the German Red Cross is to construct 300 houses in Upumaveli and 328 houses in Vannamkulam where construction has begun on 220 houses. Hudec Caritas has started construction work on 83 houses in Muallaitivu while 40 are complete. The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) is to build 100 houses in Silawathai South in Mullaitivu and has already started construction on 20 houses. Toilets were been built with financial assistance from the Danish Red Cross but has been stopped by the Planning and Development Secretariat (PDS) as they do not conform to new standards (soakage pit and septic tank). In Kallapadu North 100 toilets have been completed by UNICEF and 50 well constructions and 25 houses are complete. In Semmalai East TRO is building a primary health centre and a vocational training centre and a pre-school with a babysitting centre. In Kallapadu South in Mullaitivu the Norwegian NGO FORUT plans to build 111 houses and has started construction on one. INGO Don Bosco is building 69 houses in Mullaitivu town while 16 are complete. In Mathalan and Ammylan Povikali in Mullaitive, CARE has built 120 toilets and 80 wells.
In Killinochchi the NGO Solidar is to construct a total of 1,125 permanent houses. Solidar have the highest construction commitment out of the NGOs in Maranthankerny, working in three major areas and six sites. Solidar hope to hand over the first 20 houses soon, but they are still waiting for decisions on Watsan from the NGO Forut. They hope to finish all construction by the end of the year. World Vision is building 30 houses in Pokkaruppu and 121 in Pothpathy in Killinochchi district.
CARE International will start moving materials and prepare to start construction within the next 3-4 weeks in Palchenai, Puchchakerny and Kathiravelly in Vaharai Division Batticaloa district.
According to the Tsunami Housing Reconstruction Unit a total of 213 permanent houses have been handed over to beneficiaries so far in Matara District.
World Vision is in the process of reconstructing eight preschools and eight schools in Kuchaveli, Town and Gravets, Muthur, and Eachchilampattai in Trincomalee district. The foundations for all eight preschools are complete.
Jointly with the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition, UNICEF Early Childhood Section is organizing a national event on nutrition under the theme ““A helping hand to childhood through better nutrition”. The event will run for the whole month of May in all 25 districts of Sri Lanka. Meanwhile UNICEF provided learning material (exercise books, rulers, pens, pencils, crayons, etc.) for 18’500 tsunami-affected students in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Thunukkai education zones.
World Vision is implementing a cash-for-work road rehabilitation project in Valaithoddam, Eachchilampattai, Thaqwa Nagar and Muttur in Trincomalee. One hundred and three men and four women are participating in Muttur while 117 men and 135 women are rehabilitating a 2.5 km road stretch in Eachchilampattai.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Non-schooling, early drop out and high absenteeism in selected communities in Sri Lanka

Asian Tribune: 12/04/2006" By Sunil C. Perera

A recent study found in Sri Lanka states that 60.8 per cent of children comprised of those who had never been to school [15.7%] and those who had dropped out [44.7%] The study revealed that the the percentage of children out of school was relatively higher among Sri Lanka Tamil and Plantation Tamil Children.

Chandra Gunawardana and Swarna Jayaweera of the Open University of Sri Lanka and Centre for Women’s Research had done this study under the financial assistance of Commonwealth Education Fund of the Save Children –Sri Lanka.

The present study attempted to ascertain the incidence of non-school going in households and identify the factors –economic, social, educational, personal, that have contributed to non-schooling or early school leaving .The sample was selected from 22 districts from six community types, consisting of 1014 children and 944 parents and guardians.

More girls than boys had never been to school and more boys than girls were school dropouts. There were more children in the 10-14 age groups out of school. The percentage of children out of school was relatively higher among Sri Lanka Tamil and Plantation Tamil Children.

Thirty six percent of the dropouts had left school before completing primary education. Almost 10 percent had been absent through the two weeks of the survey and 44.5 percent had been absent for more than 5 of the 10 school days.

Researchers said that poverty and resultant economic constraints of families , indifference of parents and unstable family environments were found to be the major factors of non-schooling , dropout and high absenteeism leading to engagement in paid employment in occupations such as domestic service , manual labour , school related factors such as refusal to admit poor children or those without birth certificates, lack of facilities for children with disabilities , harsh punishments and lack of transport facilities had also been barriers.

Personal problems such as chronic ill-health, disability peer pressure and learning difficulties had contributed to non-schooling and drop outs. The findings indicated that multi-pronged strategies are necessary to ensure to all children the right to education, researchers said

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Donors pledge to assist Tsunami transitional shelter dwellers

The Island: 11/04/2006"

Donor organizations have pledged their assistance to maintain reasonable living conditions in the transitional shelters of the Tsunami affected families until they migrate into permanent dwellings.

The pledge was made by the International Organization of Migration (IOM), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and others at a donor briefing held last week organized by the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA). The meeting was chaired by the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of RADA, who informed the donors of the need to provide support to families still living in transitional shelters until more permanent solutions could be arranged.

UN Resident Coordinator, Miguel Bermeo told the meeting that the transitional shelter program has been recognized as a genuine success by the international community, and that it is necessary to stay committed to the people who were so badly affected by the tsunami, just over one year ago. ?The good news is, that this does not require a great amount of resources, just continuing what was started?, he said.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), recently requested by RADA to be the Lead Agency to coordinate Care and Maintenance for Shelters, also made a presentation on the organization?s present capacity to implement this programme. Addressing the meeting, Programme Officer, IOM, Ms. Rana Jaber explained that funding would be necessary to allow the agencies that remain committed to giving assistance to provide basic support to the 56,000 families remaining in transitional shelters.

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