Tsunami victims in the south are getting back on their feet with jobs to support them but it's back to expensive handouts in the north and east. Around 200,000 persons lost livelihoods because of the tsunami. While tsunami victims were initially supported through cash grants, the plan was to help them become independent again through millions of dollars worth of livelihood recovery programmes. According to data from Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA), US$ 249 million was disbursed for tsunami livelihood recovery programmes, out of which, US$ 181 million was already spent by November 2006.
However, the millions spent on tsunami recovery are showing only limited benefits because of the escalating conflict. The latest International Labour Organisation (ILO) survey on tsunami job recovery shows that two years after the tsunami most tsunami victims in the south have recovered their jobs but recovery has reversed in parts of the north and east.
One step forward
The ILO's latest Needs Assessment Survey for Income Recovery (NASIR- 4) shows that overall, both livelihood recovery and incomes of tsunami victims have improved since 2005. The survey shows a 92% job recovery in 2006 compared to the 75% recovery in 2005.
"In 2005, in general, 75% of the families had recovered employment but the incomes were lower. In 2006 we see an improvement in the incomes. Almost 57% had incomes of more than Rs 5,000 per month compared to only 32% in 2005," says the Country Director of the ILO, Tine Staermose.
The number of families living on less than Rs 2,000 per month has reduced from 25% in 2005, to only 8% in 2006. The ILO also notes an improvement in women's standing. "In 95% of cases, at least one female member that lost income due to the tsunami, has recovered some income. This is a 30% increase, so it is quite significant," says Staermose.
Job recovery among men on the other hand, has reduced compared to 2005. "For men, employment recovery is 84% when it was 88%. This decline could be due to the situation in Jaffna," says Staermose. Overall, 77% of tsunami victims have gone back to jobs in the same sector as they were in before the tsunami. This indicates good recovery of tsunami affected sectors such as fisheries, agriculture and small business, says the ILO.
However, the ILO notes an income inequality among tsunami victims. Families that were relocated to new homes are showing difficulties earning income. People that have gone back to their original homes are doing much better than families that were relocated and those still living in transitional shelters.
"The new housing schemes seem to have some problems. People that were relocated to new houses seem to be poorer. So having a new home does not mean you can continue the same as before, because the entire social fabric of the community has changed," says Staermose.
The ILO findings show that 25% of the families that were relocated earn less than Rs 2,000 per month while 19% of families in transitional shelters are still living on less than Rs 2,000 per month. However, only 6% of the families that have gone back to their original homes report such low income. Therefore the ILO says families in new settlements need additional help to reintegrate their economic activities and start earning decent incomes.
One step back
"From our perspective the good news is, income and livelihood recovery has significantly improved in general but it is not the same across the island. In the south it is heading the way as planned but in parts of the north and east there is a reversal where it has gone back to the first phase," says Mr Doekle Wielinga, the chief technical advisor, of the ILO's Income Recovery Technical Assistance Programme.
Unable to fish, farm or get construction jobs and even displaced, thousands of people in Jaffna and parts of the east are back on expensive cash grants because of the war. In Jaffna 45% of tsunami victims are now dependent on non-work income, compared to only 8% in 2005. The state of tsunami victims in LTTE controlled areas is even more uncertain as the ILO survey is limited mainly to government controlled parts of the north and east.
"In conflict affected areas of the north and east, livelihood recovery plans are basically on hold. We are getting a lot of requests for cash for work and temporary employment schemes to put money in people's pockets. Especially as the prices of goods have sky rocketed in areas like Jaffan," says Mr. Wielinga.
More to do
The ILO says it would take another two to four years for full tsunami recovery, even in the south. To keep recovery on track the ILO is developing programmes, in consultation with other stakeholders, to identify need gaps at a divisional level. The ILO is also developing special assistance schemes for tsunami victims who were relocated to new homes.