ACT or Not

ACT – In Sri Lanka, tsunami work both surges and stops

Cheap duetact medication Geneva, December 22, 2006– A multiplication effect is one way that Linda Tiongco, who is working for the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International in Sri Lanka, describes the progress that has been made in the recovery from the December 26, 2004, tsunami.

While the anecdote she tells is not based on scientific data or any official studies that have been done, it illustrates how the work of ACT members on the island can be far-reaching beyond those they have assisted directly.

In Hambantota on the southern coast, the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) provided drag “madal” fishing nets and small outrigger canoes to seven teams of 16 fishermen each as part of its livelihood-rehabilitation program. The fishermen had lost their means of earning an income when their equipment was lost or destroyed in the tsunami. NCCSL encouraged the team members to agree among themselves to own the nets collectively so all would receive the benefits.

With their new equipment, the fishermen have been able to return to work, and when each team returns to shore with its catch, as many as 100 men meet the boat to help pull in the nets. The fish are then bought by ten to 15 men, and an additional four people supply the ice to keep the fish fresh.

Take into account all the people who are involved in the core activity of catching the fish and those who perform related tasks after the fish are brought ashore, then consider the family each person supports with the income they earn from their work, and the numbers of people who are benefiting in some way can quickly add up to the thousands.

Tiongco reports that fish stocks have decreased as the breeding and feeding grounds were badly damaged in the tsunami, and it is taking time for the stocks to replenish themselves. Floods have also caused changes in the river flows to the sea. But, she says, the fishermen have the means to resume their work and, with continued support, should eventually recover.

It has been two years since the tsunami hit several countries bordering the Indian Ocean. The deadly waves caused damage along 75 percent of Sri LankaA?a??a??s coastline, killed 35,000 people and left a half million homeless.

While ACT members have made progress in assisting survivors in areas like livelihood support and in building houses in some parts of the country, they have faced challenges in carrying out work in other areas because of external factors.

In the areas of Cheap micronase 5mg Pottuvil and Komari in the east, the Methodist Church, a member of NCCSL, is building 101 houses for tsunami survivors. “Suddenly the housing has taken off,” reports Tiongco. However, she adds, the shortage of building materials and skilled labor have caused a sharp rise in the cost of building houses, as much as a four-fold increase per house.

The biggest threat to the tsunami-recovery work is the resurgence of the armed conflict. Since April, the governmentA?a??a??s military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, have been in conflict.

NCCSL reports that the clashes in the northern and eastern parts of the country have meant that the tsunami work in these areas has slowed down or stopped. The distribution of 700 “katumarans” (boats) and 26 sets of madal nets that was due to take place in April was postponed. And for two months earlier this year in Jaffna, in the far north, all work stopped, but NCCSL has since resumed its supplementary education classes for students.

Construction of housing for tsunami survivors by the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI), also an ACT member, has also ground to a halt in LTTE-controlled areas.

The recent fighting has again forced thousands of people from their homes. “People in these areas were affected by the conflict before the tsunami, then they were hit by the tsunami, and now they are affected by the conflict again,” Tiongco explains. “Some people have been living in camps for some 20 years.”

NCCSL reports that the closure of the main supply route to the Jaffna Peninsula since August 11 means that food and essential items are being transported by sea by the government there. And with means of communication cut off as well, even by mobile phone, Tiongco says that ACT members are relying on clergy coming out of the area for information about the needs of people displaced by the fighting.

Since the day the tsunami struck, clergy in congregations have been one of the main ways the ACT members in Sri Lanka have been carrying out the relief and rehabilitation work. For example, pastors of congregations that belong to NCCSL member churches are continuing to identify tsunami survivors who have been passed over for assistance. The presence of congregations in communities has also enabled them to provide assistance efficiently, avoiding duplication with other humanitarian-aid organizations..

“Churches working on the ground know the area and can make sure people who are in need get assistance and that others are not left out,” says Tiongco, who has been in Sri Lanka since April to assist in coordinating the tsunami-response work of NCCSL, JDCSI and other ACT members working in Sri Lanka.

As the work under the ACT appeal enters its third and final year, the ACT members will be finishing up their emergency-response work and making the transition into longer-term development. But the country remains in a tenuous situation – recovering from the damage of 2004A?a??a??s disaster only to be threatened with more devastation from the old civil conflict.

For further information, please contact:

ACT Information Officer Stephen Padre (mobile/cell phone +41 79 681 1868)

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