I have just returned from my second trip to the Ampara district on the east coast of Sri Lanka where GOAL’s efforts are based, a place so remote that aid workers did not arrive until two weeks after the Indian Ocean had reaped such unimaginable savagery on the people of South East Asia in December 2004. This was one of the worst affected regions where one third of the deaths in Sri Lanka occurred - some swept away to unmarked oblivion in the sea itself, others crushed in the warren of narrow streets that were turned into open sluice gates by the pummeling water.
With over €20 million donated by the Irish public, I can confirm the quality and scale of the work done ranks among the most awe inspiring I have seen in the 30 years of GOAL. The standard of the buildings is quite breathtaking, and the gratitude of tsunami-affected communities is overwhelming. So impressive is the work completed that a local dignitary stated to a large gathering that it would have taken 20 years for the Sri Lankan Government to achieve what GOAL has accomplished in 16 months.
During the emergency relief phase, GOAL concentrated on providing emergency and transitional shelters, constructing over 1,350 temporary shelters and providing water and sanitation facilities to 6,000 people. Damaged buildings were made safe, rubble cleared and water sources cleaned. GOAL distributed non-food items such as mosquito nets, fishing gear, hygiene kits, tool kits and school uniforms. Extensive cash for work projects were implemented., and GOAL set up a boat yard and repaired almost 500 tsunami damaged fishing craft.
Once immediate needs were met, GOAL’s longer term recovery and rehabilitation programme got underway involving:
Schools and vocational training
GOAL rehabilitated 28 schools which had been occupied by homeless tsunami survivors who fled the coast after losing their homes. GOAL’s schools rehabilitation programme involved re-building 65 schools, so that some 35,000 children can return to their education after one of the most traumatic years of their lives. GOAL carried out an extensive education resources programme supplying school equipment, such as furniture, computers and sports equipment and other essential requirements to improve the quality of the school buildings and enhance learning environments.
GOAL concentrated our housing projects in the South of Sri Lanka. GOAL have completed almost 300 housing units between donor driven, owner driven and shadow population housing.
Roads & Bridges
In the wake of Sri Lanka’s tsunami, many of the east coast’s road drainage and bridges were severely damaged and rendered unusable. GOAL carried out the essential repairs undertaking an impressive infrastructural programme, rehabilitating 6 bridges and repairing 51 km of roads and improving drainage, so that communities could recalibrate themselves to a post-tsunami rehabilitative environment. Contractors employed were local, and materials were sourced locally so that money filtered back into the local economy. Serving more than 75,000 people on a daily basis, affected communities now find it easier to go about their daily lives both travelling and transporting goods and materials, making the region more attractive to business investment.
Improved potable water supply & sanitation
The giant waves contaminated water wells with salt water, and so household wells were either abandoned due the salinity levels or turbidity due to inadequate groundwater sources. GOAL rehabilitated 150 household wells, water supplies to 55 schools were improved benefiting 35,000 students, and tsunami damaged wells repaired and latrines constructed. Water mains connections were facilitated and a large booster pump installed improving supplies for 30,000 families. Water supply, distribution network and treatment to eight remote villages is being provided.
Solid waster management
GOAL distributed 1,500 compost bins and 2,500 polysac bags. A biogas digester was constructed as well as a recycling collection centre. Extensive public information campaigns were conduced through GOAL partners.
Almost 75% of Sri Lanka’s fishing fleet was completely destroyed by the tsunami, and Ampara’s only chilling plant was swept away. This lead to a reduced income for fishing communities, a sharp increase in the price of fish, and fish becoming inaccessible as a staple protein source for the poor. To reinvigorate the local economy and help fishermen and their families to get back on their feet, fishing boats were repaired, and nets and equipment were distributed by GOAL. Four fully equipped fish markets and four fishery community centres were built by GOAL and have been handed over to local authorities. With the introduction of facilities for proper icing and storage, post harvest losses have been reduced improving the earning potential of fishing communities.
In Sri Lanka, 250,000 people were left unemployed after the tsunami – many of these people were the sole earners in their families. Many of the assets people need to perform the most basic of income-generating activities were washed away in Ampara where primary income-generating activities are fishing and large-scale agriculture. In an attempt to assist tsunami survivors rebuild their lives, GOAL carried out surveys and supported business-training programmes for over 1,000 people, and some 35,000 people received livelihood assistance. GOAL assisted organic farmers through agricultural training, and destroyed home gardens were replaced. Rainwater harvesting programmes and equipment was provided to those who needed it, so that communities could work to repair normal routines and start to heal the psychosocial effects of the tsunami.
Tree planting and coastal protection activities were implemented, and GOAL planted 80,000 hardwood trees and 76,000 mangroves as well as establishing a number of sand dunes to improve environmental security.
GOAL rehabilitated over 40km of irrigation canals and repaired sluice gates, pumps, culverts and other damaged infrastructure, benefiting at least 2,000 families. Dredging and clearing work was supported. Bathing steps for mobility-impaired people were also built, as was 9 km of bund road.
GOAL managed to do all of this work on an administration cost base of less than 5%.
The GOAL programme in Sri Lanka is one of the most ambitious and successful emergency and rehabilitation programmes undertaken by GOAL to date. Thanks to the generosity and support shown to us by the public, these devastated communities face the future with hope where previously there was only despair and destruction.