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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, December 31, 2005

One year on, the tsunami provides lessons

The Age: 24/12/2005"

The world must remain committed to the rebuilding process in the
devastated countries.

It took many days before the scale of the calamity was known and many more before it sank in. Two days after the Boxing Day tsunami struck southern Asia and beyond The Age editorial observed it was the second year running that a natural disaster had cast a gloom over the festive season. The paper noted how a year earlier the earthquake in the Iranian city of Bam claimed 31,000 lives, "an awful toll that might yet be exceeded by the latest disaster". It is an observation that provokes a shudder one year later. The final toll from one of history's biggest natural disasters is more than 230,000 reported dead and missing.

An estimated 1.5 million people are believed to still be displaced. We need only recall the tiny details of poignant suffering, the individual stories, to recapture the sorrow. Like Mani Natrajan, the fisherman in Cuddalore, India, who, clutching a tree, watched the killer waves suck out his family and later lamented: "Even one child I could not save." Or delivery man Yusmadi Sulaiman, still searching the post-apocalyptic streets of Banda Aceh one week later for his wife and four children. Or the anguished drama of "Baby 81", the infant Sri Lankan boy lost in the tsunami and claimed by many grieving adults until a DNA test allowed him to be reunited with family.

The disaster sparked a tidal wave of compassion and generosity; when confronted with our collective vulnerability, we cast tribalism aside. An estimated $A18.3 billion has been pledged towards reconstruction. One year later, however, it appears the process of recovery is only just beginning. In the hardest hit area, the Indonesian province of Aceh, most of the $5 billion in pledged official aid is still awaiting spending approval. Larger aid organisations have recently expressed concerns that three-quarters of the $1 billion pledged by the Australian Government for tsunami reconstruction is being directed away from the devastated areas. They also cite various logistical problems on the ground, including difficulties accessing the remote province and the scarcity of building materials. The challenge for Australia and the international community is to keep a watchful eye on the reconstruction process, to demand tangible results and accountability from recipient governments and non-government organisations - even after other disasters, present and future, grab at our hearts and our purse strings.

On other fronts there is cause for optimism and even celebration. Work is finally under way to install a tsunami early-warning system in the Indian Ocean. The tsunami helped cement Australia's emerging friendship with Indonesia- a relationship pivotal to stability and prosperity in our region. (Sadly the friendship was sealed by yet more tragedy when a Sea King helicopter crash on Nias Island claimed the lives of nine Australian Defence Force personnel.) The calamity also shifted the political ground in Indonesia's long-standing conflict with the separatist Free Aceh Movement, putting an end to three decades of conflict. While early hopes for a similar breakthrough in Sri Lanka's long-running civil war with the Tamil Tigers have faded, the influx of funds and innovative programs to small, conservative communities is helping empower local women. Again, it is the individual stories of transformation, of strength amid grief, which most inspire. Such as the journey of Trisha Broadbridge who now doesn't want to be known only as the girl who lost her footballer husband in the tsunami. She raised funds to open a local school on Thailand's Phi Phi Island, the place where her life fell apart, and plans to teach there in coming years.

A year later the tsunami gives cause for reflection on matters disturbing and uplifting, material and spiritual: the gap between rich and poor, the mystery of resilience, the fragility of life on Earth, our common humanity. It should not overwhelm the joys of the season, but it should give us yet more cause for gratitude.

On other fronts there is cause for optimism and even celebration. Work is finally under way to install a tsunami early-warning system in the Indian Ocean. The tsunami helped cement Australia's emerging friendship with Indonesia- a relationship pivotal to stability and prosperity in our region. (Sadly the friendship was sealed by yet more tragedy when a Sea King helicopter crash on Nias Island claimed the lives of nine Australian Defence Force personnel.) The calamity also shifted the political ground in Indonesia's long-standing conflict with the separatist Free Aceh Movement, putting an end to three decades of conflict. While early hopes for a similar breakthrough in Sri Lanka's long-running civil war with the Tamil Tigers have faded, the influx of funds and innovative programs to small, conservative communities is helping empower local women. Again, it is the individual stories of transformation, of strength amid grief, which most inspire. Such as the journey of Trisha Broadbridge who now doesn't want to be known only as the girl who lost her footballer husband in the tsunami. She raised funds to open a local school on Thailand's Phi Phi Island, the place where her life fell apart, and plans to teach there in coming years.

A year later the tsunami gives cause for reflection on matters disturbing and uplifting, material and spiritual: the gap between rich and poor, the mystery of resilience, the fragility of life on Earth, our common humanity. It should not overwhelm the joys of the season, but it should give us yet more cause for gratitude.

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Relief for house builders

Daily Mirror: Rural Despatch: 24/12/2005"

Upcountry Community Participation Promotion Centre has introduced an innovative method of constructing environment friendly low cost houses. They said the introduction of this new technique would bring relief to the low-income groups in the country. The Director of the Centre, Lalith Gunawardene said the tsunami disaster further aggrevated the housing problem in the country and that majority of the survivors are still without permanent houses." Our object is to provide them guidance to construct their houses themselves at a minimum cost. This method will be of immense benefit to the prospective house builders in rural areas as well. We introduced this new system by further improving our traditional construction technology". He said. He pointed out that the bricks made of earth and cement mixture can be used after drying for two days without burning as in the case of ordinary bricks, which requires large quantities of firewood.

" It is an environment friendly process, that does not emit any smoke or obnoxious gases into the air. The bricks with a smooth finish are ideal for large-scale housing projects and hotel projects. The houses built with these bricks can be painted without plastering " he added. The Upcountry community Participation Promotion Centre has taken steps to use this innovative method to construct tsunami houses in Akkaraipattu area. They are prepared to impart knowledge of new technology to the prospective house builders. Further details in this regard can be obtained from No. 110/9 Madawala Road , Katugastota. (188)

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UN Country team on way forward one year after tsunami

Daily Mirror: 24/12/2005"

Following is the statement on the tsunami’s first anniversary by the UN Country Team.
December 26 this year, the first anniversary of the tsunami, is when all will gather to commemorate those who lost their lives and stand in solidarity with those who have survived. It is also a time to say thank you to the tremendous and unprecedented national and worldwide response to a national disaster.

As it happens during an anniversary it is also a time to assess what has been achieved and examine issues that hampered progress to ensure the reconstruction and rehabilitation process moves forward expeditiously.

The Government and all stakeholders involved in the recovery effort, have examined the successes and setbacks in relief, recovery and reconstruction interventions and the result of this collaborative approach is the report “Post Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction – Progress, Challenges, Way Forward” released by the Government on 24 December.

The report looks candidly at many issues faced in this first year of recovery and reconstruction and among others the need to strengthen the dialogue with the affected communities, to build capacity to fast track rebuilding programs and to ensure benefits accrue to every affected family.

The collective view that this report offers show that much has been achieved this year with almost 250,000 of internally displaced moved from the emergency camps to some 54,000 transitional shelters and the ongoing reconstruction of permanent housing picking up pace. But more needs to be done.

A crucial element is to ensure that no one is left behind. The government has now been able to convert 70 percent of all pledges into commitments, a commendable achievement as this is well above previous international averages after similar devastating disasters.

The United Nations Country Team in Sri Lanka (which includes all UN agencies, International Organization for Migration, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and World Bank) would like to reiterate the key findings in the report: The emergency response has been a success and the recovery process is progressing but more effort needs to be put into closing the gaps across sectors and districts.

People need to be informed about entitlements, next steps forward, complaints and redress procedures. We need to ensure that every affected family should know what their future entails, in terms of housing, employment, ongoing relief support, education for their children and health care.

People must be consulted about how best to get back to their homes and livelihoods.

Equity issues require attention. It is the shared responsibility of the Government and development stakeholders to ensure that all needs have been covered and that no group or community has been left behind.

Local and district government levels need continuous support to ensure coordination and maximise results.

Despite the initial success, we now have to work together to ensure that all pledges must be converted into commitments and all commitments into disbursements that show results on the ground.

Above all the Government and supporting agencies should recognise the vital need to integrate all reconstruction initiatives with sound national developmental goals, in turn strengthening the peace process and providing lasting security benefits and deveopment for all communities in Sri Lanka.

On this one year anniversary the United Nations Country Team is committed to ensuring that all people in Sri Lanka are on their way to a better and safer development path than they were prior to the tsunami.

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Tsunami fishing boat aid could bring “misery”: report

Daily Mirror: 24/12/2005"

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 (AFP) - Thousands of new boats given to fishing communities to replace those destroyed in last year's tsunami risk bringing “economic misery” by exhausting already depleted fish stocks, according to a new report.

The Malaysia-based WorldFish Centre labelled as “misguided” aid projects that were supplying affected countries with more vessels than they had before the December 26 disaster.

“Armed with good intentions and awash with money, but without clear co-ordination and a coherent strategy, many of the rehabilitation efforts will fail,” it said in a report.

“Worse still, they may imperil the longer-term livelihoods of the communities they are seeking to help. For fishers, the grim possibility that efforts to rebuild might actually send their communities on a downward path to economic misery is very real.”

The research institute said that in the Indonesian province of Aceh, which was worst-hit by the tsunami, some 8,000 boats were destroyed, but that some 10,800 new vessels had either already been delivered or were about to be.

“In many cases we see higher numbers of smaller boats which are used for inshore fishing, and this has potential negative consequences on the stocks which are the small fisherman's catch,” said WorldFish expert Madan Dey.

“Smaller fishermen cannot go to the deep sea and catch tuna -- they will be relying on the fish in inshore areas and if this ecosystem is destroyed, that will have a big long-term effect,” he told AFP.

WorldFish said that reviving depleted fisheries should take precedence in reconstruction efforts, even if that meant abandoning plans to provide replacement boats and fishing gear.

And it called for money to be spent instead on restoring marine habitats, enforcing sustainable fishing quotas, and providing training in other skills so that fishing communities could reduce their dependence on the sea.

It said that with Southeast Asian fish stocks estimated at a tenth of their levels in the early 1970s, they must not be allowed to “continue on their downward spiral and condemning fishers to become even more vulnerable.”

“Yet there is a very real risk that this will happen if our rehabilitation response is developed without due thought given to the complexities involved and is dominated by easy and ill-considered options for replacing lost boats and gear.”

WorldFish director-general Stephen Hall said the fishing grounds affected by the tsunami were poorly understood, but it appeared the disaster had not caused mass fish deaths. “However, as to the question of whether the destruction of mangroves has compromised the ability of those stocks to reproduce, the impact will only be known in a year or two's time,” he said.

Hall conceded that in the “murky area between relief and rehabilitation”, where many tsunami survivors remained without permanent housing, changing the focus onto the long-term implications of aid was difficult.

But he said regional governments and civil society groups were already listening, and that the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation had decided recently to suspend a project to supply Indonesia with an extra 2,400 boats.

Hall said it was vital to widen coastal economies by introducing new businesses like small-scale aquaculture in farms which would create a variety of job openings.

“All these things will make those communities more stable and more resilient to the kinds of shocks they received in December last year,” he said.

The WorldFish Center is an independent body funded by grants from private organisations and governments.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka take a critical look at reconstruction

Daily Mirror: 24/12/2005"

Social stigma, depression among widowers, increased alcohol use among teenagers are all highlighted in the voices of tsunami survivors that were captured in a series of "People's Consultations" in Sri Lanka.

The 800 focus-group discussions that were carried out in 1,100 villages in the 13 affected districts in the island were conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of Colombo.

These Consultations have allowed tsunami survivors to express their concerns and aspirations, thereby empower them to map out their futures. It not only helped officials ascertain the needs, concerns and ideas of the affected, and share these findings with relevant development actors, the meetings also turned out to be an important way to disseminate information on critical issues and decisions to the affected communities.

The dialogues highlight that more women than men perished in the disaster, leaving an unprecedented number of widowers suffering from depression and stigma. Many husbands who lost their wives on December 26 find it difficult to look after young children while also being sole breadwinners for their families.

In addition, the research reveals an increase in alcohol consumption among men and teenage boys, large numbers of absenteeism and a high number of dropouts recorded in schools in affected districts since the tsunami.

Some of the people affected by the tsunami are suffering from social stigma and many talk of being labelled as ‘tsunami-karayo’ – tsunami fellows – or beneficiaries of the ‘golden wave’. The initial findings show that some communities are now divided over many issues and relationships amongst neighbours, relatives and friends have seen drastic changes in some places. “The old harmony of the village has disappeared and in its place, envy, greed and resentment have grown,” the report says.

“This initiative has been invaluable not only in identifying the needs of people affected by the tsunami and in informing them of their rights and duties, it has also provided the space for some of the most vulnerable people in the various communities to participate in the recovery and reconstruction of their own lives and livelihoods,” said Sanaka Samarasinha, the Deputy Country Director of UNDP.

“It is now critical that effective steps are taken by all those involved in the tsunami recovery effort to follow up immediately on these findings. We must capitalize on our successes and address the challenges identified by the people themselves so that we don’t fail to meet the expectations raised through these consultations,” he said.

On the issue of housing, there is consensus among people across the board that they should be consulted and involved in the rebuilding process. The initial feedback shows that some fear that stringent adherence to the buffer zone policy will aggravate the challenge of finding land for rebuilding, particularly in those districts where land is scarce to begin with.

A tsunami-affected community in a village located in the Galle district also reported that they feel kept in the dark about how the tsunami aid is being managed. “Frankly, we know very little about the mechanism being implemented on our behalf. We are keen to receive answers to these questions. Who gets what from whom? Who does what for whom? Have we got the freedom to know?” enquired a community member from Galle.

During the consultations, it appeared clearly that information sharing between the local communities and those involved in the recovery activities were vital to ensure the success of rebuilding back better. “Earlier, there was no mechanism to ensure that the village-level opinions got to top-level authorities.

This process has given us a voice and is helping us rebuild our lives,” said Namal Lakshanta a fisherman from Beruwela in the South who lost his boat and livelihood in the tsunami and is now starting to rebuild his life.

“The government and others involved in relief, rehabilitation and recovery require
people’s participation in order to make correct judgments about related policies and relief mechanisms,” said Professor Lakshman Dissanayake, Director of the Colombo University Extension Centre, which jointly conducted the consultations with the Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, consultations with government, NGO and other reconstruction partners showed that the weight of delivering tsunami assistance fell squarely on the shoulders of the district administration, at a time when they were insufficiently prepared to cope with an effort of this magnitude.

The consultations which are funded by Norway and Germany, include discussions with the relevant Government Agents (GAs), Divisional Secretaries (DS), line ministries and other government officials.

The full report will be accessible at www.undp.lk

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Sri Lanka’s 'Titanic hero'

Hindustan Times: 21/12/2005" by Samrat Choudhury

Wannigaratna Karunatilake, 50, was the guard of the train that was swept away in Peraliya, southern Sri Lanka, during last year’s tsunami. More than 1,000 people died. Karunatilake and his assistant R.U.A. Gunaratna survived. This December 26, Karunatilake says he will be where he was last year — at Peraliya.

Karunatilake says he wants to forget the incident but he’s going there as a special guest in a ceremony in memory of those who died. The day will be even more poignant for his assistant. Gunaratna is going to be on duty on the 50 Matara Express — the same train that got swept off, the train that Karunatilake says, has, since that day, been “wrongly called the Samudra Devi (Queen of the Sea)”.

Karunatilake and Gunaratna were on routine duty when the tsunami struck. The first intimation of disaster they had was water on the tracks. It entered the train too, and was up to his knees, he says.

Then he heard a girl screaming for help. He took off his uniform and dived in to help her. He had just pulled her out and was on his way back from the engine when he saw the monster wave coming.

Life hasn’t changed much for Karunatilake since. “I am working again on the same line,” he says. He is back at his job, and has been since the southern line reopened on 20th February 2005. That day, he was on board the first train to ply the line, a train called ‘Galle Princess’.

Karunatilake does have minor celebrity status his neighbourhood. Everyone knows the house of the man who was guard on that train. He brings out a small wooden souvenir in the shape of Sri Lanka.

“The Railway guards union gave me this,” he says. His prized award, though, is a certificate from the government appointing him “State Justice of Peace”.

The government also gave him Rs 1 lakh to rebuild his house, which was hit by the tsunami. Karunatilake points to a crack in the wall. “There was water up to the ceiling lamp,” he says. “My wife and children survived by climbing on to the roof.” Everything in the house was destroyed. Now he’s put most of it back together but the fear of that day is still on his mind. Karunatilake points to a newly constructed first floor room. “Now we can go upstairs if there is another tsunami,” he says. And the survivor of the disaster he calls the ‘Titanic of Sri Lanka’ still needs sleeping pills, like he has since last December 26.

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Town of Hambantota, Sri Lanka Regains Some Normalcy After Tsunami a Year Ago

VOA: 21/12/2005" By Patricia Nunan

Sri Lanka's southern coast, where thousands of fisherman have returned to the sea in the months since the tsunami. They rely on the sea to support their families. Many, like the men in the town of Hambantota, know no other way of life. On December 26th, 2004, that way of life was torn apart.

Of Sri Lanka's thousands of coastal towns and villages, those in Hambantota district were the worst hit by the tsunami waters. Roughly 5,000 were killed, among the more than 30,000 lives lost nationwide. Now, the damaged boats are fewer, and signs of recovery in Hambantota abound.

Despite the outpouring of international assistance in the tsunami's wake, it wasn't enough to ease the fears of many, who were unsure the town or its people would ever truly recover.

Weeks after the deadly waves, Mohammed Darooq, a fish wholesaler, said at times he was afraid to even look at the ocean. But he was encouraged by the global response to the crisis, which eventually exceeded the $2 billion promised to Sri Lanka alone.

"I think it will recover in a positive way - with all these foreign countries giving money to the government. Because of that money, I'm hopeful,” he said.

Still, Darooq has grown cynical. Before the tsunami, as a fish wholesaler, he earned a comfortable $300 a month. Now, he just works at the local market. He'd like to expand his business to what it once was, but can't afford to take out a loan.

"Working here, I earn just enough to cover my cost of living. I'd use up my daily earnings to pay back a loan."

There's no doubt the international response has helped.

The Sri Lankan government has launched several rehabilitation programs, including the provision of thousands of new boats to help fishermen return to work. It's also launched an ambitious housing project to help those who were left homeless by the tsunami's wrath.

For M.W. Sahardeen, the losses were far more personal. "Wife, three children-- all destroyed,” he said.

A school teacher, Mr. Sahardeen lost his wife, two daughters and an infant son to the tsunami when it swept onto the spot where his home once stood.

Although he and his surviving daughter were eligible for a new home provided by the government, it would be a few kilometers away from the sea for safety -- in the event of another tsunami. But Mr. Sahardeen was reluctant to leave the place where his family perished.

Now, Mr. Sahardeen is back at work. After months of living in a temporary shelter, he decided to take the government's offer of a new house on the outskirts of town, in part to move on from the tragedy.

He says he's pleased at how far Hambantota has come since the tsunami. Still, memories of what happened are never far from his mind.

"When you look from the outside at the tsunami's effects, it appears as if we've just lost our houses and possessions - things you can see,” he told us. “But it's much more than that. I lost my family to the tsunami. They're dead. So when they come to mind, it's very hard to escape feelings of grief. We're just people."

Mostly he says, for the sake of his surviving daughter, he has no other choice but to just keep going.

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Temperence - a forgotten factor in poverty alleviation

Daily News: 23/12/2005" by M.C. Mathupala

Many attempts have been made by the state and non political organisations to reduce the levels of poverty in our country. The efficacy and coverage of such efforts get minimized due to the uncontrolled drinking habit of our men folk in the rural areas and the poverty pockets in urban centers. This factor has not been addressed in any desirable manner by our politicians and/or the development workers.

Go to any rural village on the day of the so-called Samurdhi Advance is given. You will find quite a number of men - fathers and brothers of poor families who are recipients of state aid - smelling of liquor. Occasionally you may find one or two fallen on the wayside.

This situation is also prevalent in the plantation estates especially on pay days and ‘advance’ days.

Rural development programmes and small business development programmes have helped rural families to generate additional income. Though the enhanced incomes are not very high, they can help the marginalized families to raise their living standards gradually if the supplemented incomes are not fritted away by the drinking, smoking and gambling habits of the men folk.

Rural poverty surveys, family counsellors, development workers and religious organisations have indicated the disastrous ways in which drinking has devastated some of the poverty stricken families they have tried to help.

Drinking and smoking, sometimes combined with drug addiction have nullified their onerous efforts in attempting to give such families a better lease of life and getting them to the mainstream of development.

Inmates in drug rehabilitation centers and prisons who have brought misery on themselves as well as their family members due to drinking, smoking and drug addiction relate stories depicting how those bad habits were innocently introduced to them and how such practices led them and their families to misery.

It is a matter that should immediately be considered most seriously and urgently by the state and the development institutions if poverty alleviation programmes are to achieve their expected goals.

Addiction to liquor, cigarettes and drugs ruin the health of the addicts. They also affect the health and well-being of the families. The literature that is devoted to the derogatory effects of liquor, cigarettes and the misuse of drugs in vast and easily accessible to development workers.

The ill-effects of passive smoking on children and non smokers have been well documented.

Recent research has shown that drinking etc., affects even the fetuses developing within the wombs of the wives of those addicted to drinking, smoking and drugs. Health hazards relating to these bad baits are numerous.

Effects on health lead to the degradation of the rural labour force. When the viscious circle starts it leads to indebtedness, social disruption, crime, higher levels of morbidity, unemployment and many other factors that destroy a nation’s economy.

The main factors that cause these disturbing features among the rural folk are ignorance and low level skills in money management.

They have little or no access to people or institutions that can guide them to lead better lives conserving their health, energy and income.

A good example is what happens at the illicit ‘bookies’ found in all nooks and corners in urban and rural areas. The poor men who come to bet their place bets of a rupee or fifty cents (i.e. half a rupee).

A wealthy man who places a bet of ten rupees will get Rs. 100 if he wins a double (10x10 = 100). The poor man will get only one rupee for his bet of one rupee (1X1 - 10) or twenty five cents for his bet of fifty cents (1/2x1/2=1/4) even if he wins a double.

Trying to emulating the more prosperous gamblers the poor men fritter away their little income hoping for windfalls that never come their way.

Arrest and rehabilitation is what happens to drug addicts.

But what about the thousands of poor drinking and smoking men folk in the rural villages and estates who are unwittingly causing misery to themselves and their families? NGOs and the CBOs operating in the rural areas and the state institutions have a major role to play in arresting this situation if the poverty alleviation programmes of the Government are to achieve their expected results.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tsunami widowers struggle to pick up the pieces

Reuters: 20/12/2005" By Peter Apps

VATTAVAN, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - When Ramakrishnan Shakthivel and his wife saw the tsunami bearing down on their house on Sri Lanka's east coast, they grabbed their three children and ran for their lives.

It was too late. The wave slammed into their village, destroying their home and sweeping them away. It was the last time he saw his wife alive.

"I was badly injured and taken to the hospital," he said on the steps of the temporary shelter he now lives in near the eastern town of Batticaloa. "Immediately after, I asked if people had seen my wife and children. Two days later, I found her body."

The Dec. 26 earthquake and resulting tsunami killed more than 231,000 people in a dozen Indian Ocean nations.

The series of giant waves killed up to three or four times as many women and children as men, international aid group Oxfam said, after surveying villages in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.

Aid workers had several explanations: women stayed behind to look for children; they were less likely to know how to swim and wore saris or clothing that made it hard to run from the waves; men were running errands, working in fields or out at sea when the waves struck on a Sunday morning.

A year on, many of the men are struggling to look after their surviving children. Some are seeking to remarry. Others have sunk in despair.


Save the Children, in a report this month, said the disaster has had a profound impact on communities.

"A series of new family structures, such as single-parent families, foster families, and families consisting of extended family members have been created."

All three of Shakthivel's daughters survived, but the 47-year-old fisherman, who now has no boat, says he can only look after the five-year-old.

"The older two are cared for in the orphanage," he says, holding a picture of his wife and a son who died of a snake bite before the tsunami struck.

Shakthivel is still waiting to be told when he will be given new housing and says despite massive international aid programmes in the local area, he has received no help to set up a new livelihood.

"I was all the time thinking of my wife," he says. "I feel loneliness even when I am with the children -- it is hard to explain."

Survivors throughout the tsunami zone are suffering from a variety of psychological problems -- feelings of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, sleep disorders, flashbacks and nightmares, psychosomatic complaints, aid agencies say.

After the disaster, aid workers from Oxfam took Shakthivel and many others like him to counseling, telling him how the wave had struck a string of countries around the Indian Ocean and that he was not the only one suffering.

In another nearby settlement, Rasayayagam Murukupillai says he envies those who were widowed but still have children to care for. He can remember nothing after finding his wife and only daughter lying dead under a garbage heap two days after the wave struck.

"I can't remember what happened in those days," he said. "I'm worried she was unconscious for a long time. If I'd found her, maybe she would be alive. I was always thinking about it, when I was eating and sleeping."

Even before the tsunami, experts say Sri Lanka was facing a mental health crisis. It has one of the highest suicide rates in the world -- 5 percent of hospital deaths are from drinking pesticides -- but lack of understanding prevents many from talking about it.


Some aid workers say they fear the one-year anniversary may spark a new round of suicides. Many may only start to face up to their grief when the struggle to survive is finally over and they and their families are back in permanent housing.

Murukupillai says he is finding life more bearable with the passage of time, but he envies those who lost partners but whose children survived "to look after them".

In some tsunami-hit countries, aid workers say there has been a rush of new weddings -- and new births -- as the bereaved find new partners and have new children to replace those who died.

In India during the first months after the tsunami, some village elders proposed that daughters should not be married off until their widower fathers could remarry.

"They wanted the daughters to stay with the widower father, cook for him and take care of him until he could remarry," said M. Krishnakumar of Avvai Village Welfare Society, a NGO in Nagapattinam district, India's worst affected region.

"However this was not really implemented."

Murukupillai says he is not yet ready for remarriage.

"I don't like to, because I have lost my wife and child," he says. "But maybe in time."

(Additional reporting by Dean Yates in JAKARTA, YP Rasjeh in NAGAPATTINAM, India)

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Tsunami Upended Ordinary People's Lives

The Lanka Acedemic: 21/12/2005"

Nine hours after the tidal wave struck the coast of Sri Lanka - , rescue workers found a 10-week-old boy caked in mud and took him to Kalmunai Base Hospital. There he was registered as ``Baby 81,'' the 81st person admitted on that chaotic day.
The tsunami that left at least 216,000 people dead or missing in 12 countries took more than 31,000 Sri Lankans, 40 percent of them children. So it was hardly surprising that nine couples whose infants had been torn from their arms turned up to claim Baby 81.

Eight of them soon dropped their claims, but it wasn't until Feb. 16 that a court-ordered DNA test delivered Murugupillai and Jenita Jeyarajah's son back to them.

His name is Abilass Jeyarajah.

ABC News whisked him and his parents to New York. There, they stayed in a hotel that costs more for one night than Murugupillai Jeyarajah earns in months. They appeared on ``Good Morning America.''

Abilass received some gifts a few toys including a teddy bear but his parents say they were not paid for their story.

In their village of Kalmunai, few believe them. The family returned home to open resentment from those who lost everything and received so little.

Even the free public hospital where Abilass spent seven weeks after the tsunami has turned the Jeyarajahs away, saying they can afford private care.

``Life has become very difficult for us,'' Murugupillai Jeyarajah said in a recent interview.

One night, he said, he was confronted by a group of men who accused him of becoming wealthy from donations. ``I told them no one has given me money. They got angry and started beating me up,'' he said. He reported the attack but claims the police did nothing.

When Murugupillai, 31, and Jenita, 26, ventured out, people pointed at ``Baby 81's father'' and taunted ``the rich tsunami family,'' he said. Soon, his wife stopped going out at all.

In August, the family moved to a hamlet a few miles away. There Murugupillai Jeyarajah, a barber, opened a salon with his brother. They earn about $4 a day.

But the perception of wealth followed them.

``People here initially welcomed us,'' Murugupillai Jeyarajah said, ``but slowly they are changing.''

Little Abilass is changing too. He's walking now, barely. He loves munching biscuits and deboned fish. At a recent temple visit with his father, he laughed as he played with other children.

But at night, his sleep is fitful. Even footsteps are enough to wake him.

``He often sobs and moans in his sleep,'' his father says. ``He was not like this before.''

Disturbed sleep signals painful emotions below the surface, ``a manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder,'' says Dr. Sanchita Bhattacharya of the Apollo Hospital in Colombo. Since the tsunami, she says, ``babies have nightmares, bad dreams and hallucinations.''

Back in their rented house, Murugupillai Jeyarajah brings out newspaper clippings of their visit to the U.S. Then he displays the family's application for the U.S. immigration lottery.

In America, he says, the family could begin anew. There, his son would be known only by his name, derived from a Sanskrit word meaning ``aspiration'' or ``desire.''

``The name of my boy is 'Abilass','' he says. ``Not 'Baby 81.''

By Dilip Ganguly in Cheddipalayam, Sri Lanka -


The young man named Rizal Shahputra has a recurring nightmare: From the top of a hill, he watches the sea rise up and swallow his native town.

The destruction of Calang, in Indonesia's Aceh province, was real enough. Eight thousand of its 10,000 people, including Shahputra's father, mother and sister, perished that day. But he was not on a hill when it happened; he was not that lucky.

The raging waters dragged him down, hurled him against broken trees and other debris, then sucked him out into depths of the Indian Ocean.

``I prayed 'Allahu akbar' seven times. 'God please save me,''' he recalled in a recent interview. He felt himself rise through the sea, imagining he was being pushed toward the surface by a young man in white robes, ``handsome beyond words.''

``I am not sure who he was,'' he said. ``I just think my God sent the angel to save me.''

Somehow he managed to build a raft out of branches and planks that the receding sea carried out with him. For three days, he survived on floating coconuts, then had only water from bottles salvaged from the debris.

Sharks circled, but he did not give up hope.

On the ninth day, Shahputra was rescued by a passing cargo ship, one of whose crew members snapped a photograph of him waving from his raft.

These days, the nightmare comes after midnight, or just before dawn.

``I know I should see a doctor but I cannot,'' he said. He doesn't have the money. ``I used to cry, but if you cry for the deceased, their souls will not get peace. So now I have learned to laugh at my nightmares.''

Today, he shares a room in a hostel far from home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he studies English at University College Sedaya International. He lives mostly on charity, including waived tuition and hostel fees.

He has decided to become an English teacher.

That would be no mean feat for a 21-year-old who, a year ago, was a high school-educated masonry worker with little interest in an outside world that seemed beyond his reach.

``Hundred percent I am happy,'' he said as he lounged at his classroom desk. ``English is not difficult. I read and read and read. Maybe next time I can speak better.''

But occasionally, even when he is awake, the nightmare returns. ``Sometimes I feel claustrophobic when I am in the classroom. I run out, making the excuse of going to the washroom,'' he said, switching to his native Indonesian language, his brown eyes clouding.

One of his teachers, Carrie Baber of Pedricktown, N.J., says she ``wasn't sure how he was going to make it after losing his family. But he is very resilient. ... He is not angry with God for what happened. And that's amazing.''

Shahputra sees a new future for himself now, but he will never forget where he has been. On the wall of his hostel he displays the photograph, the one taken from the deck of the cargo ship, showing a wreck of a man waving from a makeshift raft. Above it, he has scrawled a single word:


By Vijay Joshi in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Each night, as the sun sets over a ramshackle camp of tents and thatch-roofed huts in Nagapattinam, India, a one-time fisherman gathers 30 children around him. He tells them tales from Hindu mythology, stories of competing gods and wise animals.

It is a comforting ritual for children of families struggling to rebuild lives overturned by the tsunami.

``I thank God every day for choosing to save these little ones from that monster,'' G.M. Veerappan said recently as the children waited at his feet for another story.

But there is one story Veerappan does not tell them his own.

The sea rushed into his small house. He threw his 6-year-old daughter, Vijayeeshwari, on his back, wrapped sons Vigneshwaran, 4, and Vijayaraghavan, 2, in his arms, and clung to a post.

He held on as long as he could, but the muddy water pulled at him and debris battered him, sapping his strength. Finally, he could hold on no longer.

His boys slipped from his grasp.

The current swept them away.

``I cried and cried, thinking I had killed my children,'' he told The Associated Press a few days later.

But rescuers found the boys, unconscious and barely breathing. Soon after, Veerappan and Vijayeeshwari were reunited with the boys, and with his wife and two other children, who had been safe on high ground.

For weeks, the family bumped from one temporary shelter to another, finally settling in a 100-square-foot tent in this camp in Nagapattinam. They were destitute. With his fishing boat destroyed in the disaster, Veerappan had no way to make a living.

But officials of the Nehru Youth Center, which helps run the camp, saw how children were drawn to Veerappan, how they loved his stories.

``They asked me if I could do this regularly,'' he said. ``I agreed because I also like kids and I needed some job.''

He is paid 1,500 rupees (about $33) a month to play with and read to the children in the camp of about 500 people.

The government has given him about $5,000 for his lost boat, but he says he needs more than $27,000 to replace it.

He puts a little away each month, and it will take time to save enough, but that's OK, he says, because it will take time before he can face the open ocean again.

``One day,'' he says, ``I will regain the confidence to go to the sea.''

For his children, he has other dreams.

``Maybe,'' he says, ``they survived the tsunami because they are destined to do something big in life.''

By S. Srinivasan in Nagapattinam, India.


Every night for months after the disaster, Carl Michael Bergman stood vigil at his two sons' bedsides to soothe their terrors.

``They had nightmares from January to June. They were waking up seven times each hour, he says. ``They were so worried. 'Where's mama? Where are you? Where were you when it happened?'''

A year ago, Bergman, a Swedish entrepreneur, was vacationing in the lush Thailand resort of Khao Lak with his wife, Cecilia, and their sons, Nils, now 4, and Hannes, now 2.

When the tsunami hit, Carl Bergman was on a dive trip in the Andaman Sea. Nils was on an elephant ride. Cecilia and Hannes were lounging by the swimming pool outside their bungalow.

Carl Bergman rode out the wave and made it to shore safely. Nils was safe on high ground. But the surge swept Cecilia and Hannes away.

Hannes was discovered unconscious in the debris. A Thai princess named Ubolratana, who lost her own son in the disaster, took the boy by helicopter to a hospital in Phuket.

A day later, his father found him there. United with his boys, Bergman began a frantic search for news of his wife, in the rubble of their ruined hotel, at rescue centers and hospitals.

Months later, Cecilia Bergman's body was identified among the dead, who included more than 500 Swedish tourists.

Hannes started talking this year. He still does not fully understand what happened to his mother.

Nils, the older brother, is angry, Carl Bergman said by telephone from Stockholm. ``He wants to go back and hit the waves.''

He may get the chance. Soon, the Bergmans will return to Thailand to try to put their ghosts to rest.

Carl wants his sons to understand that Thailand, a country he has ``always loved,'' is not to blame for their mother's death. And it will be a chance, he says, to thank everyone who helped him.

Nils is anxious about the trip.

``I don't want to die,'' he told his father. ``Who will take care of me and Hannes if you die?''

Son, the father replied, ``you don't have to worry, and I will be with you for all time, part of your bodies and souls.''

But Carl Bergman himself remains troubled, consumed with ``deep sorrow over my dear wife,'' he says. ``It's like a cancer that grows and hurts more and more in my bones. But I believe in life and love. There is so much beauty around us, and I hope I will be able to let it in again, when I am ready.''

Sometimes, Nils wonders aloud when he will get a new mother. He has made a list of the qualities she should have.

``If you see a mother like that,'' the boy tells his father, ``whisper that in my ear.''

By Alisa Tang in Bangkok, Thailand. Associated Press, Wed December 21,2005

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J.R.D. Tata and lessons for Sri Lanka

Daily Mirror: 22/12/2005" “The Thought Leadership Forum” By Ranel Wijesinha

During the course of an assignment in Shillong, Meghalaya-one of 8 states of the North Eastern Region of India, which border China, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh- I often stayed at the Taj Mahal at Mansing Road in New Delhi.

Many Sri-Lankans who have stayed there would agree with me that it is an indigenous Indian hotel that provides world-class service on a consistent basis, which perhaps prompts even other hotels to talk about it! No wonder then that political leaders, business leaders and celebrities of all types stay there.

JRD Tata
This of course is not the only achievement; the House of Tatas is famous for. Apart from diverse business interests, the Tata Group had great Thought Leaders. Presidents and Prime Ministers of India interacted closely with them. Political Leaders of India respected these business leaders for their objectivity, honesty and integrity and, above all, their leadership in thinking and doing. Reading Indian newspapers, whether editorials or news items or magazines of Indian origin, is always an intellectually stimulating experience for me.

On one such occasion a few months ago, I read an interview JRD Tata had given the Times of India in July 1981, which the Taj magazine- the magazine of Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces - had reproduced with these opening words from Fatma R Zakaria, now its Editor – “Twenty Four years later the issues discussed and the views of JRD Tata, are as relevant as they were in 1981. We therefore publish the long and comprehensive dialogue so as to initiate a debate on the subject once again.”

Given the X’mas season and many being on holiday, I will discuss in lighter vein today, JRD’s wonderful thoughts, and reconnect with the complexities of Privatisation Case Studies in early January.

Poverty Alleviation? -Free the economy and see the difference-

In response to a question as to what the private sectors’ contribution to tackling poverty would have been if the private sector was allowed to play its legitimate role during the preceding 30 years and the Government had a more flexible policy towards it, JRD’s view was as follows:-

India, after it became independent, practiced what was then termed a Mixed Economy – where private enterprise would play an important and continuing role, and the private and public sectors would be looked upon not as separate entities but as parts of a single dynamic organism. From the mid 50’s to the 60’s the mixed economy concept was good. Industrial production rose at an annual rate of 8 to 9 per cent.

Subsequently “due to an ideological opposition to private enterprise and misconceived interpretation of socialism, drastic policy measures and controls crippled the economy. For the misdeeds of a few, the business community as a whole was blamed and anti-private sector propaganda gathered momentum. The nationalization of major industries; government monopoly over finance; an absurd obsession about the dangers of concentration of economic power in private hands, etc., restricted initiative, investment and growth.”

“With a flexible and pragmatic approach, the economic scene would have been different.” In particular, he says, “Investment in industry would have been much greater; employment would have grown more quickly in all sectors; production would have increased considerably and shortages removed; Government revenue would have materially increased, which, in turn, could have been used in development programmes. And these conditions could have gone a long way in alleviating poverty. In short I say free the economy and see the difference.”

Rapid employment generation requires massive programmes of Public Works

When asked whether, in order to generate rapid employment, a Government has to protect the small sector-the cottage sector JRD had this to say-“I hold the view that the quickest way to provide extensive fresh employment in India is for Government to undertake massive programmes of public works - Roads, water projects, afforestation, and building works. The forests of this country are being devastated; afforestation is a prime need all over the country. Housing- buildings of various kinds, schools and hospitals, all would require largely unskilled work. Generating massive and rapid employment by creating industries in every village is not a practical solution. Any industry however small, needs skills. You have to first train and develop people. Develop them as fast as you can but it will still take years”

The Role of Foreign Capital & Technology in accelerating Economic Growth

India needs to open it doors more widely to foreign investment he had said. “Unfortunately successive Governments have been reluctant to do so. The economic scenario for the next 50 years, will call for massive investment but not all of it could be financed by domestic savings, which at 22% is already high for a developing country. Government has to liberalize its approach to attracting foreign direct investment if India is to grow as fast as it can.”

In addition he had said technological progress is a worldwide process and interchange of which between nations is wholly desirable. Foreign collaboration was important in avoiding having to “re-invent the wheel” and in transferring evolving technology.

Many local entrepreneurs prefer to have a competition free protected market

“Many of our entrepreneurs bask happily in a protected market,” he had said. He had gone on to say, “There would be little risk and much to gain in allowing foreign capital to contribute to this great endeavour of ours. All the assets and jobs created would be Indian. The improved technologies brought by foreigners would automatically advance our own, and would release a large proportion of our own resources for employment intensive development, particularly in agriculture and agro-based activities, essential to the rapid development of our rural areas.”

A growth rate of 6% annually for 50 years is quite possible

As far back as 1981, JRD had apparently recommended, a 6 % annual growth rate for the next 50 years. When asked whether in the light of the fact that the annual growth rate in the last 30 years was only 3.5%, this target was feasible his view was that India had stagnated at 3.5%. If this was what was achieved despite faulty planning; poor implementation; neglect of rural India; excessive priority given to heavy industry; restrictive economic policies often based on ideology rather than on pragmatic considerations; restrictions on the growth of the private sector through all –

embracing controls and licensing; the poor performance of the public sector; frequent breakdowns in infrastructure, then achieving 6% was quite feasible.

In contrast, he had said that South Korea, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Singapore Taiwan and Hong Kong, had in the last 30 years achieved a growth rate of between 6 and 9 per cent. Japan during this time had a 10% growth.

He had gone on to say that, all these countries had relied on private enterprise and that Governments in these countries were geared to encourage and support private enterprise.

Improving the performance of the public sector

On the topic of improving the quality of the public sector, his view was that one of the biggest handicaps of public sector enterprise was that they were run largely by the ministries and were constantly interfered with. There is no continuity of management.

Poor performance in the public sector is partly due to the manner in which they are treated and controlled by the Government.

It creates in them a sense of insecurity and fear. This kills initiative and no one wants to take a decision. He goes on to say that (perhaps at that time) in France, Germany and Italy Governments treat public sector enterprises as private sector and leave them alone. If management does not produce results then they sack them.

A recent Sri-Lankan Example
All this is very relevant to Sri-Lanka even today. A case in point is the apparently unceremonious removal of a Chairman of a major Public Sector institution, only 2-3 weeks ago. This sent shock waves across the Foreign Direct Investment community, local entrepreneurs and even several members of the Cabinet of Ministers. The damage to the global and local reputation of this overseas trained and educated professional; the image of political interference the country sends out to the world from whom it labours to attract FDI; the negative effect it has on the morale of internal staff who were engaged in a successfully running UNDP assisted re-structuring initiative; as well as the dampening effect it has on efforts to “Re-attract Sri-Lanakan Experts working overseas” to return and lead similar Public Sector organizations- are all serious issues that civil society should not remain passive about if it wishes to contribute to the kind of change JRD Tata envisaged 24 years ago.

In addition to all this and much more, civil society must also help remedy the other side of the equation as it were. For, the professional who then assumed the position of the new Chairman of this very institution, and who benefited from and perhaps catalyzed this situation, has sadly set a bad example not only for all Sri-Lankans here and overseas, but all professionals everywhere.

Ranel Wijesinha., FCA (Sri-Lanka), MBA (USA), is a Chartered Accountant and Management Consultant with specialist experience in consulting in the areas of Privatizations, Valuations, Acquisitions and Divestments, Strategic Review, Redirection and Restrucuring assignments. He has made a major contribution to National Economic Policy and Strategy over the years. The “Thought Leadership Forum” which appears every Wednesday, is an “Awareness Enhancement Initiative” launched by him in the Financial Times, on November 16th, 2005.

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Tsunami - hit women running a gauntlet of new challenges

Daily News: 23/12/2005" by Chandani Jayatilleke

They were paddy cultivators, string hopper makers or vegetable sellers before the tsunami struck exactly one-year ago. The killer waves wrecked their lives. The pain remains to this day, and some of the losses are permanent. But even so, many have sprung to life and picked up the lost threads, though some have been idling, depending on relief and grants. A few have taken to begging too.

Maheshwari from Thirukkovil in Ampara district wants to build her life and provide a better future for her children. Still living in her transitional house, she dreams of continuing her paddy farming which she did with her husband prior to the tsunami. Her husband perished in the deadly tidal waves.

Today, she anxiously waits the monsoons which are to begin in the next few days or weeks. The rain, she believes, will water her rice crop and bring new hope to her family.

“I want to build a house and find partners for my unmarried children,” says Maheshwari, who speaks Tamil and communicated with the Daily News through a translator. Maheshwari is small in stature and worn down by the hard life in the village. At 56 she looks more like 80. She is the mother of 10 children, eight daughters and two sons, who died during the region’s two-decade conflict.

Five of her eight daughters are married. For months she has been living in a transitional house made of planks in a tiny, temporary village especially set up for the tsunami survivors. Even after one-year she continues to live in the same settlement.

However, she has the courage to lead a gainful life. Thanks to a grant scheme initiated by an international NGO, Maheshwari could plough her paddy fields for the second time. “I have courage now,” she says. “I know I’ll have to be strong and do everything alone to be successful,” she said.

Amid all obstacles, hundreds of women such as Maheshwari are showing remarkable determination to move themselves and their families from the temporary shelters to better places.

Often, the crucial boost comes from various government and non governmental organisations. But this is not the complete story. According to a study done by Sumika Perera of the Women and Media Collective many women survivors are still languishing and the hardships that they were exposed to over the last year were immense.

Perera says that she visited many tsunami-affected areas through the Coalition for Assisting Tsunami Affected Women-CATAW and observed that many women survivors are faced with issues such as lack of proper houses, toilets, health facilities (specially for pregnant and lactating mothers), livelihoods and education facilities for their children.

Perera is of the view that there are many important points to consider when resettling the tsunami-affected people, as many women want to live in an area where there is sufficient security for their children and where they can restart livelihoods without much hassle.

Perera says that a group of women she met in Galle lamented that they would not be able to continue to be involved in the coir industry in the future because the housing units they are getting are far away from the coir industry locations.

In certain villages, women also complained that the cash their families received in building self-help housing units were not spent 100 percent for that purpose, because, the money was received by their husbands. And they spent the money on their own. There were women who found fault with their husbands because the men sold certain relief items they received to buy liquor.

However, the situation with regard to the affected women in the North and the East is more vulnerable. Many Muslim women who continue to live in camps and in the temporary shelter do not have sufficient freedom. Their movements are restricted as they have to live among strangers in the temporary settlements.

Therefore, Perera calls upon the authorities concerned to provide decent living facilities and opportunities for earning money.

What is most disturbing about the tsunami survivors in the South is that many have got into the ‘dependency syndrome’. Around the three damaged railway carriages in Peraliya is a growing begging culture. The moment a vehicle carrying foreigners or locals stops near the railway track in Peraliya - just to have a glimpse of the train, a group of women and children runs to the scene and asks for help - money. The women encourage their children to beg.

These women are supposed to be those who lived within the 100-metere zone before the tsunami. Their houses are being constructed elsewhere at present, although they still occupy the temporary wooden houses built within the 100-metre zone.

When the Daily News queried why they behaved in this manner, they said that they were in the coir industry before and were now jobless. And up to now, they haven’t got any support.

We asked the children whether they went to school, to which they answered happily ‘Yes’. They’ve got their books and everything as well.

One thing never stops in Sri Lanka - school education. Come war or the tsunami, kids in white uniforms and dark ties trudge to school. And this is true both in the Sinhala speaking South and the Tamil speaking North-East.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Policy Commentary: Mobilizing information and communications technologies for effective disaster warning

lessons from the 2004 tsunami -- Samarajiva 7 (6): 731 -- New Media & Society


The Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004 was one of the greatest natural disasters; it was also the first internet-mediated natural disaster. Despite the presumed ubiquity and power of advanced technologies including satellites and the internet, no advance warning was given to the affected coastal populations by their governments or others. This article examines the conditions for the supply of effective early warnings of disasters, drawing from the experience of both the 26 December 2004 tsunami and the false warnings issued after another great earthquake in the Sunda Trench on 28 March 2005. The potential of information and communication technologies for prompt communication of hazard detection and monitoring information and for effective dissemination of alert and warning messages is examined. The factors contributing to the absence of institutions necessary for the realization of that potential are explored.
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Tsunami evaluation coalition: Initial findings

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP)
Date: 26 Dec 2005


This is an initial report from the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition (TEC). The TEC is a collaborative effort by aid agencies (donor governments’ aid departments, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisations, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement) to improve humanitarian systems by learning from the response to the earthquake and tsunamis of 26 December 2004. Another aim of the TEC is to provide some accountability for the humanitarian system to both the giving and receiving publics.
The TEC carried out five joint thematic evaluations; on the donor response, co-ordination, needs assessment, the impact on local and national capacities, and the linkage of relief with rehabilitation and long-term development.
The added value that the TEC joint evaluations bring is the ability to do sectoral assessments which would be difficult for individual actors to do. It was also hoped that the joint TEC evaluations would reduce the need for individual agency evaluations.
It was originally planned that this report would present the preliminary findings of the TEC thematic evaluations; however the thematic reports have fallen behind their planned timetables. The preliminary findings presented here are based on a variety of sources, including some of the draft TEC evaluation reports, TEC workshops in London and Brussels, and comments by evaluation team leaders, evaluation managers, and members of the TEC’s Core Management Group.
The main reports on the work of the TEC will be the five thematic evaluations and the TEC synthesis report, due to be published in May 2006. The TEC synthesis report will draw together all the themes as a coherent whole and make recommendations for the future. Given that this report draws on sources other than the incomplete TEC thematic reports, it may present a different range of issues from the synthesis report.
While initial needs were broadly met, in part by local actors, there is room for improvement in the way that agencies are meeting ongoing needs. Key areas for improvement in the current operation of agency responses tsunami response are:
- their engagement with local actors;
- transparency, communication with, and accountability to the affected populations;
- transparency towards their donors.
Despite a number of unique factors, the well-funded tsunami response provides a significant opportunity for the aid community to learn how to improve its performance in future responses. The TEC synthesis report will examine these issues in far more detail and will present detailed recommendations for correcting the weaknesses highlighted by the five TEC thematic studies. The thematic reports will also provide far more detail on the areas in need of improvement, and will identify examples of best practice in the tsunami response that agencies can adopt in future operations.
This report was drafted by John Cosgrave, the Evaluation Advisor and Co-ordinator of the TEC.
The impact of the earthquake and tsunamis
The fourth largest earthquake of recent times struck about 100km off the west coast of Sumatra, an hour and a half after dawn on 26 December 2004. A 1,200km section of the earth’s crust shifted beneath the Indian Ocean and the earthquake released stored energy equivalent to more than 23,000 Hiroshima bombs. This raised the seafloor several metres and sent a train of giant waves (tsunamis) rushing east and west to wreak havoc on the coasts of more than a dozen countries spread over two continents.
Tsunami waves started to strike the Nicobar and Andaman Islands within ten minutes of the earthquake, and Banda Aceh was struck within another ten minutes or so. Within two hours of the earthquake, both Thailand and Sri Lanka had been hit. The east coast of India was hit shortly afterwards.
Tsunamis rolled over the Maldives three hours after the earthquake and lashed the Somali coast more than seven hours after. The earthquake and tsunami killed people in fourteen countries across two continents, with the last two fatalities being swept out to sea in South Africa, more than twelve hours after the earthquake.
The tsunamis were measured on tide gauges around the world, but no further fatalities or major damage were reported outside of the Indian Ocean.
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Post Tsunami recovery and reconstruction, progress, challenges, way forward - Joint report of the Government of Sri Lanka and development partners

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: Government of Sri Lanka
Date: 27 Dec 2005

Executive Summary

About the report: This report aims at providing an objective joint assessment of post-tsunami relief, recovery and reconstruction interventions and the way forward. A team comprised of representatives from the government, civil society, and the international community prepared this document, with 20 government institutions, 20 bilateral and multilateral organizations and 18 national and international NGOs contributing relevant details. During October 2005, more than 100 experts and practitioners from these institutions met and prepared detailed summaries of four sectors and seven thematic areas.
Impact of the Tsunami: The tsunami killed 35,322 people, displaced 1,000,000 persons and affected over two thirds of the island’s coastline and outlying 13 districts. Besides the tremendous loss of life and injuries, the tsunami caused extensive damage to property and disruptions of fisheries and other livelihood activities and business assets. Social networks also were severely disrupted. In many cases, lives became complicated due to the loss of legal documents. The socio-economic impact was of greater consequence as the tsunami compounded previously existing vulnerabilities.
Emergency response and relief: Thanks to a quick combined response by the government, local communities, local NGOs, private sector and the international community, the country recorded no additional deaths because of tsunami related diseases or lack of delayed medical treatment. The government, with international support, carried out immediate repairs of basic infrastructure, such as major pipelines and water sources, roads, bridges, electricity, and telephone lines. National and foreign military personnel helped in the rescue operations, identification and burial of dead, and debris clearance. Nearly 600 schools and places of worship provided emergency shelter. Food aid was provided to 910,000 people and a compensation scheme for the victims was put in place. The government and LTTE cooperated in order to ensure that humanitarian assistance reached those in need.
Funding the recovery and reconstruction process: The government has projected it would take 3-5 years to complete the rehabilitation and reconstruction task and fully restore the services and livelihoods. This effort will cost approximately US $ 2.2 billion. The international community has committed US $ 2.1 billion and an estimated US $ 0.6 billion has been disbursed. In addition, debt relief/ moratorium and balance of payments support have also been received. Based on a clear assessment of the experience so far remaining gaps will be identified and corrective action will be taken to ensure the speediest recovery.
Getting people back to their homes: Displaced families were sheltered in emergency accommodations. It was recognized that the construction of more than 98,000 permanent houses would take time, and transitional shelters were required in the interim. The government declared a buffer zone of 100 meters from the high water line in the south and southwest 200 meters in the north and east, where reconstruction of permanent houses was restricted. The buffer zone has been a critical issue in the recovery process.
Out of the targeted 60,000 transitional shelters, some 54,102 have been completed and 1,948 are nearing completion allowing internally-displaced persons (IDPs) to move out of tents. This significant achievement is the result of a concerted effort of the government and development partners. However, the quality of these transitional shelters sometimes may not have been to one’s expectations. Upgrading has been underway and a programme of care and maintenance is being implemented. Simultaneously, two programmes for permanent housing to repair or rebuild damaged houses were also introduced. For people living outside the buffer-zone, under a homeowner driven programme financial support is being provided to 66,525 families. Thus far, the first of four installments has been released to 83.5% of these families. Subsequent installments are being progressively disbursed. For people previously living within the buffer zone, a donor-built housing resettlement programme is underway. Some 32,000 families will be assigned housing in new locations with the necessary facilities. As of 13 December , some 10,707 units were under construction, and 4,299 completed. In addition, a large number of shelters and houses constructed by others including Buddhist temples, individuals, private sector and other organizations remain within public knowledge although not formally reported to the center.
In spite of the progress made, notable shortcomings and areas for further improvements need to be mentioned. Accordingly, consultation and communication between beneficiaries, local governments and development partners must be improved. Some families remain uncertain about their future housing options or whether they are not eligible under the ongoing programmes. Further challenges remain such as undersupply in certain areas, additional demands for housing with the recent revision of buffer zone regulations, construction capacity, time constraints and rising prices of building materials. These issues are being addressed.
Full report (pdf* format - 834 KB)

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

World Wide Help: Remembrance Week - 26th December, 2005 - 1st January, 2006

World Wide Help: Remembrance Week - 26th December, 2005 - 1st January, 2006:
Last year, on the 26th December, an earthquake, and then a tsunami, killed, wounded, or impoverished hundreds of thousands of people in South Asia.

During the course of the year, other disasters took their toll too. Most devastating of them: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the South-East coast of the USA; and another enormous earthquake near Pakistan's border with India.

These disasters took their immediate toll, and, each time, the world tried to help. But as calamity piled upon calamity, there has been a certain amount of fatigue. Perhaps people's stock of goodwill has run low. Perhaps seeing too much suffering hardens us.

But, the fact is, the suffering from those disasters has not ceased. Parts of South Asia have still not recovered from December 26th, 2004. In the USA, normalcy hasn't returned to New Orleans. In Pakistan, thousands are still homeless, and may not survive the harsh Himalayan winter.

They need your help.

Last December and this January, the online community came together as never before to help in the aid efforts in South-East Asia. The lessons learned there were put to use, and improved upon, when the other tragic events of the year unfolded.

Can we harness that goodwill, that togetherness, that willingness to help once more?

The WorldWideHelp group (http://groups.google.com/group/WorldWideHelp)would like you to join us in Remembrance Week. Here's what we suggestyou do.Use your blogs, your vlogs, your podcasts, your home pages, yourwikis, your newsletters. Link to your favourite charities and NGOs,write a paragraph about them and the work they are doing, and ask yourreaders to make a donation. (If you'd like to find some more charitiesand NGOs, please take a look at this page on our TsunamiHelp wiki(http://www.tsunamihelp.info/wiki/index.php/Aid_Agencies), this one onour KatrinaHelp wiki(http://www.katrinahelp.info/wiki/index.php/Aid_Agencies), or this one(http://quakehelp.asiaquake.org/qh/index.php/Aid_Agencies) on ourQuakeHelp wiki.)
Angelo Embuldeniya

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Sri Lankan tsunami survivors still dream of a normal life

OneWorld: 21/12/2005"

When the first big wave came in on December 26 last year, H Priyantha thought it was just that — a big wave. Then the sea pulled back. The fisherman from Balapitiya in southern Sri Lanka rushed into the sea to tie his boat — and saw the monster wave coming.

He was lucky to survive. All his possessions were washed away. Priyantha now lives in a temporary camp in Balapitiya along with people from two neighbouring villages. They were relocated here on a school ground five months after the tsunami. “We were told we could stay here for up to one year,” he says. “Seven months are already gone. And we don’t know when we'll get a permanent house.”

Home and livelihood are the major issues for Priyantha. He now does odd jobs around the nearby towns. He is good at working with fibreglass, he says, and can also do little repairs; so he manages to make ends meet.

The money the government promised him and others at the village isn’t coming, they say. “We were promised Rs 5,000 (INR 2,500) a month for six months, but only got four months’ worth of relief.” Priyantha still hasn’t got a boat, though he is eager to go back to sea.

The housing problem seems to worry him and others at the relief camp a lot.

Priyantha and his friend Priyasena de Silva say they want houses within 100 m of the sea. "We don't want houses away from the sea," they say. "We need to stay near the sea to look after our boats and nets." The Sri Lankan government has stipulated a buffer zone of 100 m from the sea where building is now prohibited. This has, however, not prevented new hotels and resorts from coming up within the zone.

"The Gram Sevaka and technical officer were asking for Rs 10,000 to give housing assistance of Rs 50,000," they say. "To get Rs 2,50,000 you've to give Rs 25,000."

The Sri Lankan government had announced a scheme run by the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation (Tefren) that would give cash grants to those whose houses had been destroyed by the waves. The local-level government representatives were made responsible for assessing damage.

The camp inmates, who now live in one-room log cabins and share one toilet for the whole camp, say people with ankle-deep water in their houses had got lakhs in government assistance by bribing local officials. But those like them, with no money for bribes, ended up with nothing.

A recent Oxfam report said only 5,000 of the 78,000 permanent houses required for tsunami rehabilitation had been built.

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Sri Lanka's tsunami survivors suffer from social stigma

Xinhuanet : 21/12/2005"

Social stigma, depression among widowers, increased alcohol use among teenagers are all highlighted in "people's consultations" with Sri Lanka's tsunami survivors, the United Nations Development Program said here Wednesday in a press release.

The consultations were carried out by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, UNDP and the University of Colombo in 1,100 villages in the 13 tsunami-affected districts in the island.

The dialogues highlight that more women than men perished in the disaster, leaving an unprecedented number of widowers suffering from depression and stigma.

Many husbands who lost their wives on Dec. 26 last year find it difficult to look after young children while also being the sole breadwinners for their families.

The research also reveals an increase of alcohol consumption among men and teenage boys, large numbers of absenteeism and a high number of dropouts recorded in schools in affected districts since the tsunami.

Some of the people affected by the tsunami are suffering from social stigma and the relationships among neighbors, relatives and friends have seen drastic changes, said the release.

"The initiative has been invaluable not only in identifying the needs of people affected by the tsunami and in informing them of their rights and duties, it has also provided the space for some of the most vulnerable people in the various communities to participate in the recovery and reconstruction of their own lives and livelihoods," said Sanaka Samarasinha, the deputy country director of UNDP.

The research finds that information sharing between the local communities and those involved in the recovery activities were vital to ensure the success of the rebuilding.

"The government and others involved in relief, rehabilitation and recovery require people's participation in order to make correct judgment about related policies and mechanisms," said Lakshman Dissanayake, director of the Colombo University Extension Center.

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Relief efforts problematic one year after tsunami: UN

Daily Mirror: 22/12/2005"

The United Nations yesterday expressed concern over serious delays in reconstruction efforts one year after the Tsunami, and called upon the international community to step up efforts in assisting disaster hit countries.

Miloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur on Adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and Dr. Walter Kalin representative of the United Nations Secretary General on the Human Rights of the Internally displaced Persons, in a statement said:

“One year after the Indian Ocean tsunami wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people across several countries, relief and rehabilitation efforts regrettably. continue to prove inadequate.“Large numbers of survivors remain forced to live in sub-standard conditions that fail to meet criteria for adequate housing and living conditions dictated by international human rights standards. “The lack of attention given to the high number of internally displaced persons in affected countries is also a cause of concern.

A majority of individuals are still living in temporary shelters, while many remain mired in unacceptably rudimentary conditions akin to the emergency relief camps that were set up in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Still others are forced to reside in damaged homes due to the lack of available or suitable alternatives. Living conditions in most areas are poor, and many people still do not have access to basic services like water, sanitation and healthcare.

“Furthermore, affected communities have not been consulted and have been denied access to information and participation in planning and decision-making processes related to rehabilitation. Specifically there have also been allegations that government agencies and aid organizations have failed to involve affected communities in the formulation of need and loss assessments, aid distribution, and reconstruction

Although international attention seems to be waning rapidly, post-tsunami challenges continue to have an enormous impact on affected communities, family structures and social relations. This impact has. been particularly severe on women and on vulnerable groups such as children. Affected women continue to be marginalised and excluded from the rehabilitation and reconstruction process, and often lack access to education and security of tenure.

The presence of military forces in some camps where tsunami survivors are living, as well as the lack of privacy in temporary shelters, has raised serious concerns regarding women's physical safety, and has increased their vulnerability to physical and sexual violence, illustrating once again the close nexus between violence against women and the lack of adequate housing.

Reports of domestic violence have been widespread, as the inadequate nature of housing design and settlement layout have only served to exacerbate already tense relations in the home due to the stressful nature of life post-tsunami. In addition, many regions continue to lack adequate health services. The shortage of health professionals and health-related information only serves to further exacerbate the situation. The phenomenon of so-called "tsunami marriages" among under-age girls is common in some areas, especially in southern India and Sri Lanka.

It is essential that relief and rehabilitation efforts are carried out in a gender-sensitive 'manner and take into account the special needs and concerns of women. Efforts must also be made to uphold the rights of children. Special guarantees should be put in place for orphaned children to enable them to receive entitlements to land and compensation instead of merely absorbing them into existing family units exercising temporary guardianship.

We are concerned that the forced relocation of certain groups of people further exposes them to vulnerability. This includes Dalit communities in India, Burmese migrants in Thailand, and Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka. Many fishing communities have been forced to relocate far from the coast, which has further jeopardised their livelihoods and nutrition requirements. Efforts must also be made to prevent further societal discrimination or exposure to risk of vulnerable groups, such as those living with HIV/AIDS or mental illness, refugees, internally displaced persons, the disabled, and the elderly. .

On this, the one-year anniversary of the Asian tsunami, we strongly encourage the international community to intensify its efforts to assist the governments of India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand and Somalia to rebuild the lives, livelihoods and homes of those affected by the tsunami, in fulfilment of their obligations under international human rights law. Along with this commitment a number of urgent steps need to be taken:

There must be increased accountability of public and private aid providers toward the people they are trying to assist:

The concerned governments must playa more pro-active role in reconstruction efforts, especially in providing permanent housing and restoring livelihoods in an equitable manner;

There is an urgent need to develop mechanisms that ensure transparency and accountability in the disbursal of funds; that allow monitoring of all actors involved in post-disaster relief and reconstruction; that enable survivors to participate in reconstruction planning and implementation; that ensure that within resettlement areas women have equal rights to land and housing; and that provide access to grievance redressal and justice systems;

Concerted efforts must be taken to ensure that political interests do not threaten rehabilitation work, especially in conflict-ravaged areas. Survivors' rights to dignity, gender equality, livelihood, and adequate conditions of living must be upheld and must guide all rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.

This tragic anniversary also serves as a reminder to all States of the urgent need for human rights based disaster-preparedness and disaster-response policies. Experience has clearly shown how much can be gained when these policies are based on international human rights standards and appropriately provide for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Jobs 'return to tsunami region'

BBC: 20/12/2005"

Up to two-thirds of those who lost their jobs in the Asian tsunami are working again, a report says.
Published by UK charity Oxfam, the report says this is partly because of schemes employing people to clear debris and desalinate land.

But it also says about a million jobs were lost, and more needs to be done.

Oxfam believes that the drive to restore jobs has progressed more than some other areas of the recovery operation, such as shelter.

Last week, the charity said about a fifth of those made homeless would be in satisfactory permanent accommodation by the first anniversary of the disaster.

The report, called Back to Work, says up to 85% of those who lost their jobs will have new ones by the end of 2006.

Unemployment in badly affected areas rose sharply, Oxfam found, reaching more than 20% in Sri Lanka and a third in Indonesia's Aceh province.

Many of those worst affected remain among the most vulnerable, the charity says.

They include fishing families, small-scale farmers, labourers, small business holders and those in the tourist industry.


Some two million people were forced into poverty by the effects of the tsunami, Oxfam observes.

But the report estimates that 1.4 million of those will have regained their previous status by 2007.

Oxfam director Barbara Stocking said the report marked an impressive recovery.

"One year on, well over half of people who lost their jobs are already back at work.

"Most of the destroyed fishing boats have been replaced and thousands of hectares of farm land have been cleared and replanted."

Oxfam's report stressed that many underlying causes of poverty still remain, particularly in coastal areas over-reliant on fishing or tourism.

In Sri Lanka, where the tsunami slammed into eastern and southern coastlines, up to 65% of the fishing fleet was wiped out, Oxfam says.

In Aceh, less reliant on tourism but more dependent on fishing, unemployment hit 33% after 70% of the area's fishing fleet was scuppered.

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6 Tales of Courage


Savior Priest

When the tsunami hit the eastern Sri Lankan town of Thirukkovil, just before 9 a.m. on Dec. 26 last year, Father Ranjeevan Xavier cut short morning Mass at St. Joseph's, told his congregation to head for higher ground, tucked his cassock into his sash and ran toward the sea a few hundred meters away. "Almost immediately I found the body of a woman lying on a fence," says Father Ranjeevan, 30. "Her long hair had tangled in the barbed wire and trapped her. We'd had floods before, but I'd never seen that. I picked up her body, carried it to dry land and went back." Thirukkovil was largely under water and littered with naked corpses: the force of the waves had torn clothes off the victims. Father Ranjeevan carried 70 people and 200 bodies out of the water that day. "Everyone was looking for their mother or their children," he says. "But as a priest with no family, it was easier for me. I could just keep pulling people out."

The surrounding district of Ampara was the worst hit in Sri Lanka. Of 38,000 dead, 10,000 were from Ampara, including a tenth of Thirukkovil's population of 6,000. Father Ranjeevan says he eventually buried 750 people--most in two mass graves on the beach--as bodies from elsewhere washed up on the tide. He ministered to the dead for a week, then started on recovery. He coordinated aid groups, distributed self-written pamphlets on the science of tsunamis, set up patrols to stop looters and opened a nursery, a students' dormitory, a nutrition center and a teacher-training facility. He even held a kite-flying contest to encourage children to return to the beach. "What didn't he do?" asks police inspector Thushara Sena, 32. "He pulled people out, buried the dead ones and fed the live ones. He was the man people went to for everything. Still is."

Father Ranjeevan believes the tsunami brought good too. Aid flooded a poor area, the waves broke down divisions built by religion and a 22-year civil war, and disaster brought people closer to their gods. "The church is packed," he says, beaming, "and I'm building a new one to the south. The youth are with me. To feel closer to the sacrament, people have been leaving personal things--glasses, handkerchiefs--on the altar." Father Ranjeevan is unimpressed by the notion that that might have more to do with him than with his god. He tells the story of how, on the evening after the tsunami, he came across a girl kneeling by her mother's body, laid out with hundreds of others in the corridor of the town hospital. "The girl suddenly shouted, 'My mother is alive! Come on, mother! Come on, mother!' And there was motion. She was alive." Amid the misery, he says, that day had its miracles.

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Sri Lanka Rebuilding Homes, Lives One Year After Indian Ocean Tsunami

Voice Of America: 20/12/2005" By Patricia Nunan

Nearly a year after the Indian Ocean tsunami swept across the shores of 12 countries, many communities still struggle to recover. In Sri Lanka, VOA's Patricia Nunan has revisited the town of Hambantota - one of the areas worst hit. She tracked down people she met in January, to see how they are faring, as the one-year anniversary of the disaster approached.

The tsunami left little standing in the crescent-shaped stretch of land that forms Hambantota's natural harbor - except a greenish-blue mosque. The mosque became headquarters for emergency aid workers and for survivors in this predominantly Muslim town.

When I arrived after the tsunami, survivors and volunteers were at work cleaning debris out of a nearby well, amid stacks of damaged boats.

The southern district of Hambantota lost about five thousand of the 30-thousand Sri Lankans who died in the terrifying waves. Thousands of houses and boats - a vital commodity in this fishing community - were destroyed.

In the early weeks, many survivors I spoke to were concerned the government wasn't going to let them rebuild near the sea - to create a buffer against another tragic tsunami. They did not trust the government to understand their need to be near the sea for their boats or because they wanted to carry on living in the place their families died.

M.W. Sahardeen is a schoolteacher, who lost his wife, two daughters and an infant son to the tsunami. Just he and his eight-year-old daughter survived.

Mr. Sahardeen showed me around the remains of his house -just a foundation in the ground, pointing out where the kitchen and bedrooms had been. He was one of the people who wanted to stay.

"Even though I lost my whole family, I want to live here, in the same area," he said. "You never know - maybe a tsunami won't strike again, but there could be another disaster, like a cyclone, or an earthquake or something. People can't determine the end of their lives - it's up to God. So I want to live here in the same place."

Most of the people I met were fishermen, and most were eager to get back to sea - despite losing so many family members to the ocean's wrath.

It was a time of uncertainty. Most just hoped the government would provide them with a new boat, or repair an old one - so they could get back to making a living again.

The international response to the crisis was fast, and funds for recovery programs eventually exceeded two billion dollars for Sri Lanka alone. With that money, the Sri Lanka government launched initiatives to provide new boats, new livelihoods, and new homes to tsunami survivors.

Mohammed Darooq, a fish wholesaler, was among those I met after the tsunami. He told me he was sometimes afraid to even look at the ocean. But the international response made him optimistic.

"I think it will recover in a positive way - with all these foreign countries giving money to the government. Because of that money, I'm hopeful," he said.

As the first anniversary of the tsunami approached, I was back in Hambantota again - where the fishermen have returned to sea and where the greenish-blue mosque remains standing - now amid small wooden homes built by people who still don't want to move.

I caught up with Mr. Darooq at the local market, where he was working a stall, chopping and descaling fish he sold to local residents.

He had received some of that international assistance he was optimistic about, when an non-governmental organization built a new market stall for him. But it was not as he had hoped. He has not been able to re-establish his fish wholesale business, because he could not afford to take out a loan.

"Working here, I earn just enough to cover my cost of living," he explained. " I'd use up my daily earnings to pay back a loan."

At the Zaira National School, Mr. Sahardeen's eyes lit up when he realized I had tracked him down almost a year later. He invited me to watch him teach a math class for his 11 and 12-year-old students.

Later he told me after spending months living in a temporary shelter, he gave up his hope to rebuild. He says he decided to take the government's offer of a new house on the outskirts of town - in part to move on from the tragedy.

But memories of what happened, Mr. Sahardeen says, are never far from his mind.

"When you look from the outside, it appears as if we've just lost our houses and possessions - things you can see. But it's much more than that," he noted. "I lost my family to the tsunami. They're dead. So when they come to mind, it's very hard to escape feelings of grief. We're just people."

Mostly Mr. Sahardeen says, for the sake of his only surviving daughter, he has no other choice but to just keep going.

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