Aid worker killings jeopardise humanitarian work in Sri Lanka
Eight British aid agencies working in Sri Lanka today condemned the recent brutal killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur and warned that increasing violence in the north and east of the country is threatening their tsunami reconstruction and emergency response work.
CAFOD, CARE International, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Save the Children, Merlin and World Vision said the killings bring into stark relief the dangers for civilians caught in the upsurge of violence, as well as for those working on tsunami reconstruction and long-term recovery.
Renewed violence in the east of Sri Lanka between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has severely disrupted the lives of civilians, including people who were already affected by the tsunami. Thousands of people are fleeing their homes and have sought refuge in other parts of the country. This displacement has put even more pressure on aid agencies to provide relief in addition to their ongoing tsunami rehabilitation work.
"The current escalation in violence is having a profound impact on the ability of aid agencies to provide vital support to communities already affected by the tsunami as well as thousands of families whose lives are now being shattered" said Richard Mawer, Save the Children"s Country Programme Director in Sri Lanka.
Aid agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to operate in the north and east because of the violence and security tensions. There is limited access to areas in need and limitations on relief items allowed into particular areas.
For example, the medical aid charity, Merlin, is trying to rebuild a health centre in the eastern town of Vakarai but has been unable to access the site for the past two weeks because of a combination of fighting and movement restrictions.
"Over the past year, aid workers in Sri Lanka have had to cope with worsening violence, but this horrific incident represents an unprecedented escalation of risk," said James Marchant, Christian Aid"s South Asia Regional Manager.
British humanitarian agencies in Sri Lanka call for a full, impartial investigation into the killings of the aid workers in Muttur and call on all parties:
- to respect the neutrality of non-governmental organisations and guarantee them secured access to civilians in need
- to respect the rights of civilian populations and the basic principles laid down by the Geneva Convention
- to respect the ceasefire signed in 2002 and return to peace talks in order to bring an immediate end to the violenc
CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision all worked in Sri Lanka prior to the tsunami on long-term development work.
For further information or interviews contact:
UK Claire Kirk: 020 7327 5557
UK Sophie Kummer 020 7934 9347
Sri Lanka Sally Austin 00 94 (0) 773289823
UK Anjali Kwatra 020 7523 3460/ 07941371357
Sri Lanka Laurent Viot 00 94 (0) 773762799
UK Adeel Jafferi 0121 7130112
Sri Lanka Mohamed A. Moa 00 94 (0) 777535770
UK 01865 472498
Sri Lanka Ravi R. Prasad 00 94 (0) 773215594
Save the Children
Sri Lanka Phil Esmonde 00 94 (0) 11 2672668 ext 139
UK Jonathan Pearce 020 7014 1701
Sri Lanka Michelle Brown 00 94 (0) 773228306
Sri Lanka Taheeni Thammannagoda 00 94 (0) 773762470
Coastal residents of Indian Ocean States must be ‘tsunami-savvy’: UNESCO
People living along the coast in vulnerable Indian Ocean countries must learn to be “tsunami-savvy” to survive, while authorities must have solid planning in place to evacuate affected areas, a senior official from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warned that just over two weeks after a deadly wave killed almost 700 people in Indonesia and displaced tens of thousands.
“We have a good tsunami detection network in operation but the best technology will not help those populations living on a coast close to the epicentre of a major earthquake. In such situations, people have only a few minutes to react,” said Patricio Bernal, Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which organized a meeting in Bali to discuss how best to deal with these phenomena.
“They must be ‘tsunami-savvy’. This means they must know what to do when a major earthquake strikes, and local authorities must have solid planning in place to get people away from the area as quickly as possible.”
He said the meeting, known as the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, had shown that Indian Ocean nations have made “considerable progress” in developing national tsunami warning systems, but that the most vulnerable States still face a major challenge in protecting their coastal populations.
Putting in place national response systems was the main focus of the participants and delegates agreed that the ability to “go the last mile” and reach coastal communities was a top priority. They also agreed to continue to build the capacity to detect tsunamis and improve communication channels to ensure the delivery of timely and accurate information when tsunamis occurred.
“There’s been an explosion of activity in the countries of the region over the past 18 months to build their national response systems,” Mr Bernal said. “Thailand, for example, is now confident it can get tsunami information rapidly to people on the beach, and several others, including Madagascar and the Maldives, are getting close to this.”
However, several nations with coastlines close to fault lines, such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Oman and Iran, remain vulnerable.
The earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Java on 17 July killed close to 700 people and destroyed up to 15,000 homes, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today, but it warned that a further 10,000 people have also fled their homes and are staying in makeshift camps because they are afraid to return to areas closer to the sea.
“It’s really frightening,” said 33-year old Sumarni as she sat at Sukahurip school with her three-year-old son, Akmal, both munching WFP-supplied high-energy biscuits. “So many disasters: tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes – one after another. What’s next?”The worst-hit area in last month’s disaster was the resort town of Pangandaran in West Java where, apart from those killed and displaced, the giant waves also destroyed over 60 hotels, 163 stores, 162 restaurants and 600 street kiosks, as well as 21 fish markets and close to 2,000 fishing boats, thereby devastating the survivors’ livelihood.
An earthquake in May that also hit Java killed more than 5,000 people and injured more than 8,000, while parts of the country are still recovering from an earthquake off Indonesia’s Sumatra island in December 2004 that caused a devastating tsunami which killed over 230,000 people and affected more than 12 countries in Asia.
Massacre leads charity to abandon Sri Lanka
Paris -- The French charity Action Contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger) said yesterday it was suspending its mission to Sri Lanka following the massacre of 15 of its staff in the country.
"These humanitarian workers were clearly identified by their T-shirts as members of a non-governmental organization," said the group's director, Benoît Miribel.
ACF earlier said it had recovered the bodies of its staffers -- all Sri Lankan nationals -- from its office in the northeastern town of Muttur, where heavy fighting has pitted Sri Lankan troops against Tamil Tiger rebels. AFP
Construction of 14,000 tsunami houses completed
The National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) was able to provide the necessary technical assistance for the construction of more than 50 per cent of the houses of the tsunami victims in the Ampara, Batticaloa, Matara and Trincomalee districts whose houses were badly damaged, states a NHDA press release.
As per the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka, 44,032 houses were damaged in the above four districts which were devastated by the tsunami. Out of the total number of the houses damaged, 21,480 houses will be constructed at a cost of Rs. 957 million with the assistance of German Technical Co-operation (GTZ), Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), Swedish Agency for the Development and Co-operation (SDC), Padova Urban Council of Italy, Japan Friendship Village Programme (JFV), KFW Bank of Germany, GOAL and Community Development Programme of North East (NECORD).
Construction work of nearly 17,000 houses out of 21,480 commenced with the technical assistance of the NHDA and more than 14,000 houses were completed up to 30th June 2006.
Based on the experience, the NHDA has taken measures to provide technical assistance to housing development programmes in these districts as well as other districts affected by the tsunami.