Many survivors of last December’s tsunami are living in cramped quarters in Sri Lankan relief camps, observed a Canadian mission worker.
Some of the donations given by Canadian Anglicans to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) for victims of the powerful tsunami that hit parts of Asia last December are now being used for reconstruction and rehabilitation purposes, including the rebuilding of homes, support for livelihood projects and re-opening of schools in Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, the diocese of Colombo, one of two dioceses in the Church of Ceylon, has already moved from providing basic relief to more than 500,000 people displaced from their homes to rehabilitation and reconstruction work, according to Andrea Mann, the Anglican Church of Canada’s regional mission co-ordinator for Asia, South Pacific and Middle East. Ms. Mann visited tsunami-devastated areas in the southwest, south and eastern coasts of Sri Lanka last March 10 – 20 on behalf of Partners in Mission.
About 75 per cent of the $1,055,630 in tsunami donations raised by PWRDF has already been channeled to Action by Churches Together (ACT) – a global ecumenical agency – which has, in turn, disbursed them to churches and non-governmental organizations involved in tsunami work in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. PWRDF has set aside 25 per cent of the donations for its bilateral partners involved in long-term tsunami-related projects.
Ms. Mann said about 130 million rupees ($1.6 million) have been disbursed to the Church of Celyon and an additional 95 million rupees ($1.1 million) are available for the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.
Some of the money, which were given directly by Canadian and other donors overseas to the Colombo diocese have supported the purchase of bicycles, kits for masons and carpenters, the repair of boats and the purchase of new nets for fisherfolk – all intended to help restore livelihood to 300,000 people who have lost jobs as a result of the disaster. (The tsunami also killed more than 30,000 Sri Lankans and led to the disappearance of 5,000 others.)
Ms. Mann said the church has established a process for evaluating requests as well as reporting and accountability.
“The first priority is housing,” said Ms. Mann adding that during her visit to affected areas she saw people still living in tents and makeshift shanties and classrooms still being used as relief camps. People were living in “desperate conditions,” she said; health-related issues such as dehydration caused by extreme heat have affected children and the elderly, while frustrations over cramped quarters and the lack of privacy have sometimes resulted in verbal and physical abuse in families.
Ms. Mann said that while there was no substantial damage to Anglican churches, there is concern about the welfare of clergy and lay leaders, who have tirelessly tended to the needs of their parishes and communities and have been overwhelmed by the scale of the damage and the enormity of responsibility they have had to bear.
“They’re part of the population that has been traumatized and they’ve had to lead their communities and parishes in cleaning up and rebuilding lives,” said Ms. Mann, adding that trauma counseling and training for counseling were also priorities.
Ms. Mann said that the Church of Ceylon has all the financial resources it needs and has not made any request for additional funding, for volunteers or for the twinning of parishes. “There has been an overwhelming response and it continues to be a challenge to organize that response,” she said. Right now, she said, the church really needs prayers from Canadian Anglicans.
During her visit to 10 camps Ms. Mann said she was struck by “the tremendous depth of dignity, patience and co-operation” shown by Sri Lankan refugees. However, witnessing Sri Lankans living in tents or in tin-roofed, one-room shacks and enduring 37 C weather also made her “angry,” she said. “I’m hoping that the government realizes what kind of living conditions their people are in.”
The situation is not, however, hopeless, she said, adding that the tsunami has “brought down walls” between the Sri Lankan government and the rebel group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. After a two-year lull in peace talks, the two sides have agreed to set up a mechanism for rehabilitation and rebuilding work. The implementation of a much broader reconstruction effort has, however, been hampered by the objection of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People’s Liberation Front), a minority but influential political party within the coalition government.