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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. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Back To Life After The Tsunami

Sky News: 09/05/2007"

When huge waves surged up the coasts of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand on Boxing Day 2004 the devastation of the Tsunami brought forth a surge of generosity the likes of which the world has rarely seen.

In a matter of months the coffers of the Tsunami Appeal had swelled to around £2bn, writes Sky's Ross Appleyard.

Two-and-a-half years later, estimates show less than half of that money has been spent on the ground.

Bureaucracy among the major charities and governments of the countries affected appears to be interfering with the job of rebuilding houses and schools and caring for the thousands of children orphaned by the disaster.

One small charity based in Dublin is known for its efficiency on the ground and has an outspoken founder who has an interesting idea to put to the world community.

John O'Shea, of GOAL, believes there should be an organisation run by the international community to co-ordinate all the charities in the event of an international disaster.
He invited me to Sri Lanka to see what GOAL has achieved in the remote Ampara region of the country.

As we descended in our small seaplane towards the coast the scars of the Tsunami were still evident.

Along the shore, houses, factories and schools lay in rubble. As I walked up the beach I asked our guide what all the small sticks in the sand were for. "That's where we buried the victims," he said.

Because of the Muslim tradition of burying the dead before sunset local people were overwhelmed with the task as Boxing Day grew to a close.

Huge mass graves were organised once the sea subsided and the bodies were simply covered over with sand.

There is still a great sadness about the people of Sri Lanka but there is also optimism.
GOAL has a policy of building better than before and their schools programme has been a huge success with 65 state of the art schools refurbished to accommodate 38,000 pupils.

Roads and bridges have been replaced and the infrastructure to support this small fishing community has been put back in place.

In all GOAL has spent around £14m - a tiny percentage of what was raised overall.
The charity has given hope to thousands of children and the economy of Ampara is now heading in the right direction.

If small charities can accomplish all this in such a short space of time the question has to be asked: "Is O'Shea right? Is it time for an internationally co-ordinated response that could help people more efficiently and quicker the next time a Tsunami-like disaster strikes?"
:: GOAL UK urgently needs doctors, nurses, nutritionists, engineers, accountants, project managers, logisticians and anyone with overseas development experience.

The charity is holding two information evenings in London on May 18 and June 20.
For more information contact Laura Byrne on lbyrne@goal-uk.org or 0207 631 3196. www.goal-uk.org.

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