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4th (31 Dec) Tsunami report

REPORT ON THE INITIAL ASSISTANCE PROVIDED TO REFUGEES IN THE BATTICALOA DISTRICT IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE TSUNAMI

SOS Children’s Villages of Sri Lanka (in consultation with SOS-KDI) took immediate action to provide relief to the refugees in Batticaloa and areas north of that as a first step in providing aid to those affected by the Tsunami. Having made contact with Fr. Crispus who runs the SOS Social Centre Batticaloa in Morakkatanchenai, and establishing the immediate requirements, a truckload of dry-rations consisting of rice, dhal, sugar, tea, milk powder, and chillie-powder, as well as feeding-bottles and nipples, bottled water, salt, candles, match boxes and medicines.

All materials were purchased and 3,000 packages were made with the help of SOS staff and volunteers at the SOS Social Centre in Nuwara Eliya, which is being used as a collection and co-ordination centre for the eastern and southeastern coastal areas. The value of the goods amounted to approximately Rs.400, 000.00. The SOS staff and neighbours of the SOS Children’s Village, Nuwara Eliya, donated the clothes. Of the total value of the load, materials worth approximately Rs.110,000.00 were donated by concerned citizens and friends of SOS, Nuwara Eliya, as was the truck used to transport the relief. The SOS Children's van with some co-workers accompanied the lorry, on December 28, 2004. Two journalists and two volunteer helpers, who joined the refugee-assistance team, accompanied them.

On reaching Morakkatanchenai, Fr. Crispus joined the team to visit Vakarai, a small village just south of designated un-cleared areas under the control of the LTTE. The SOS Refugee Assistance team was the first to visit this village, considered to be a high-risk area due to the active pressure mines that had surfaced due to the effect of the waves. However, the team was confident and reached the area without incident. Around 225 families that had been displaced were taking refugee at the Alankulam Tamil Vidyalayam (school). The number of refugees was increasing steadily, as the affected families were pouring in to this refugee camp, having no alternative centre to go to. All the inhabitants of this camp were provided with dry rations and clothes. The dry rations that were provided were sufficient to last for the next two days. The SOS team was followed by another NGO, ZOA, who also handed out relief. There was no sign of any government assistance at any of the camps visited.

Karuvankerni was the next village to be visited where 150 families were taking shelter at the Vigneshwaran Maha Vidyalayam (school), where the numbers were increasing steadily. Here too items sufficient for two days were distributed.

Pudukudiruppu Tamil Maha Vidyalayam (school) was the next centre to be visited, where 425 families were taking refuge. This was one of the largest camps and here too the numbers were increasing so rapidly that on completion of distributing our items there were 555 families- an increase of 125 families in the matter of a few hours.

The’ Relief-team’ spent the night at the SOS Social centre at Morakkatanchenai and on the following morning visited the Eastern University, Batticaloa, where over one thousand families were camped. However, these refugees had received sufficient rations as this camp is situated by the main road of Batticaloa and was easily accessed by local agencies. The final distribution took place at the Vandaramulla, Vishnu Vidyalayam, where two hundred and fifteen families and about two hundred children were sheltered. Here too food items sufficient for two days were distributed. Most of the feeding bottles were distributed at this camp due to the large numbers of infants.

A small stock of food items were retained at the SOS Centre, Morakkatanchenai. This Centre is providing cooked meals as immediate relief to recently arriving refugees. This effort had begun with the help of the Anglican Church and some donors even before the SOS team reached the area.

All the refugees in Alankulam Tamil Vidyalayam, Karuvankerni Vigneshwaran Maha Vidyalayam and Pudukudiruppu Tamil Maha Vidyalayam are from Vakarai, which is a small fishing village about twenty-five kilometers from the SOS Social Centre at Morakkatanchenai. Five thousand four hundred and eighty families were living in Vakarai and all of them have been affected by the Tsunami.

STATISTICS

The statistics published through the state are not at all accurate as our observations revealed that the numbers of refugees have not been recorded in any of the camps we visited. According to some of the refugees we spoke to, they have lost their kith and kin but none of this has been recorded by the state. At present more than forty makeshift camps are functioning in the Batticaloa district.

OBSERVATIONS

We observed that none of these camps have sufficient water or sanitary facilities. • There are no systematic procedures to record the losses of these refugees. • Hygienic conditions are virtually non-existent or in a very poor state. • The refugees need kitchen utensils, medicines, toilet accessories, ladies underwear, sanitary napkins, mats, bed sheets, etc.

• During the interviews it was revealed that the refugees are not sure whether they want to return to where they came from, as they are scared that they might be subject to another tidal wave and also due to the fact that they have lost their dwellings and possessions.

• They were not in a proper state of mind to decide what they should do. However, some indicated that they are fishermen and they would like to get back to their regular profession but needed a roof over their heads and the required fishing gear. •

PROPOSALS

1. To send more essential items to other affected areas after making assessment of the most essential requirements, as at present there are numerous NGO’s, Social Workers, Government Institutions, Private Organizations and private individuals visiting the affected areas and donating various materials.

2. To convert the SOS Social Centre at Morakkatanchenai to a temporary refugee camp for up to one hundred and fifty families.

3. To establish a camp in Monaragala for orphaned and displaced children and for single parents with children until re-unification, placements and rehabilitation is completed. 4. To establish a re-building programme for the affected families after establishing needs. Divakar Ratnadurai

Project Director - Youth Services & Emergency Assistance

SOS Children of Sri Lanka

31 Dec. 2004

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