Scores still homeless a year after South Asian tsunami

Published December 1, 2005

A new life and hope for some, frustration and uncertainty for others mark the lives of survivors a year after the deadly tsunami that struck parts of South Asia last Dec. 26, leaving over 250,000 people dead and millions homeless. In remote areas of Sri Lanka – where 35,000 people died and about two-thirds of the coastline was destroyed – there are still people living in tents and waiting for temporary shelters, according to Naba Gurung, Asia-Pacific development program officer for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada. Mr. Gurung visited tsunami-devastated areas in Sri Lanka and India last July and August to look into the relief and reconstruction programs set up by PWRDF partners. (More than 90,000 people still live in temporary camps and 400,000 others are believed to be living with relatives, according to Sri Lankan government statistics.)Mr. Gurung said the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), a PWRDF partner, has expressed concern that the Sri Lankan government’s post-tsunami reconstruction process is being implemented without any input from the victims. Fisherfolk, who have been the most affected by the tsunami, have been banned from rebuilding their homes within 200 meters of the coastline but in their stead new resorts and hotels have sprung up, said Mr. Gurung, who visited a tsunami-affected coastline, which is now open to tourism.MONLAR has joined other non-governmental organizations in calling for the creation of a “people’s planning commission,” citing that the task force on reconstruction that the government has set up is only composed of “powerful business people,” most of them with tourism-related businesses. Mr. Gurung said there were some bright spots in his visit. He cited the success of a supplementary feeding program for tsunami-affected children in Sri Lanka, which is being run by PWRDF partner Janawaboda Kendraya. He reported that permanent housing has also been constructed in some areas through PWRDF’s partnership with the Presbyterian, United and Mennonite churches – which channeled tsunami funds through Action by Churches Together (ACT). The four Canadian churches received a total of $6 million in matching grants from the Canadian International Development Agency, on top of donations that they raised. PWRDF received $1.2 million in tsunami donations from Canadian Anglicans.In Tamil Nadu, India, Mr. Gurung said another PWRDF partner, the Organization for Eelam Refugees, was allowed by the Indian government to provide trauma counseling for 40 tsunami-affected villages. Through ACT and the Churches Auxiliary for Social Action, 735 permanent houses have also been constructed and livelihood programs set up in Tamil Nadu, he reported. Meanwhile, ACT said that the construction of homes remains a priority in Indonesia – where nearly 170,000 people were killed by the tsunami. Church World Service, a member of ACT, said it plans to build 300 houses in Aceh, but is “finding it difficult to locate the right land for new houses. A lack of co-ordination and persistent claims from other donor agencies over land ownership has led to confusion among the local authorities and community members.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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