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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The problems with aid

Daily News: 24/08/2005" BY THARUKA Dissanaike

DESPITE the huge influx of international and, national aid and aid workers after the December 26 tsunami, many people still languish without livelihood, without homes or a decent place to live, without water and proper sanitary facilities, many still suffer from ailments and conditions related to the tsunami and many adults and children have yet not mentally and emotionally recovered from the trauma.

The situation is much the same all over the tsunami-hit districts. People who have yet not received homes have moved in with relatives or stay on rent since their temporary shelters are not conducive for long term dwelling.

The biggest problem appear to be livelihoods and means of income. In the south, at least half the fisherfolk have not resumed their work-citing due to a number of reasons (no boats, no tackle, cannot leave children).

There appears to be a general lethargy about getting back on their feet and resuming life plus a certain bitterness about the way aid has been distributed.

In the East, the problem of the tsunami has only heightened humanitarian issues that were the legacy of a two-decade long war.

For many of these people, the tsunami was only the latest in a long-list of disasters that had wreaked their lives, torn their families apart, affected their livelihoods and their children's growth and education.

Even after the tsunami, despite the enormous international and local efforts, certain villages are left in the margins, unable to recover and still awaiting support from some benovelont agency.

The Non-Violent Peace Force in Batticaloa reports of many marginal villages like Mailankarachchi, that have been thus neglected in the process.

In addition to suffering war and tsunami, the village is also an area with a history of Tamil-Muslim tensions. The villagers depended on the lagoon and sea for their livelihood of producing dried fish. Prior to the tsunami there was a brick making industry which is now destroyed.

Many boats are lost or are badly damaged. The fishermen who earlier were self sufficient, now have to depend on temporary jobs and day-labour for income. Out of 235 families only 81 receive tsunami food stamps. There is also a lack of permanent housing in this village.

Kavattamuni is another such village that has to grapple with issues of multiple disasters like tsunami and flood damage in the background of conflict and poverty.

Despite being a large village with 6000 population, there is hardly any proper access to this place - the roads being utterly neglected and damaged due to heavy monsoon flooding and the tsunami.

Many of these villagers are IDPs (Internally Displaced People) from Vahaneri and they cannot access their own paddy lands for cultivation any more.

Since they have no livelihood the villagers need micro-credit support to take on different livelihoods. They need more wells (which were damaged by the tsunami) and many of the houses still remain roofless.

Pallainagar a mixed (Muslim and Tamil) community of 750 families that has been uprooted from their homes at least thrice due to the conflict and suffer from acute poverty and deprivation of livelihood.

A state sponsored housing scheme is lying incomplete and abandoned even as the villagers go without adequate shelter and housing.

These villages need urgent attention of humanitarian agencies working in the fields of disaster management (flood protection) livelihoods and micro credit and housing and infrastructure.

What's more, to add to the crisis many of the small, grassroots NGOs that have been working in the war-affected areas prior to the tsunami are seeing themselves being elbowed out by the big players.

Many different agencies and donors rushed in to the affected areas after the tsunami with little knowledge of local conditions or grassroots contacts but with a lot of money that needed to be spent quickly.

There has been little or no consultation or coordination with existing NGOs and ongoing programmes.

Short term, high spending projects and programmes often without links to local government or other long-term donor projects, could raise serious issues of sustainability.

When the tsunami monies have been spent and many of these organisations leave Sri Lanka, they may also leave behind a set of very complex problems. In this situation, local NGOs would have to pick up the pieces.

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