January 14 2005
From emergency aid to rebuilding lives
Relief efforts in tsunami-hit regions refocus on medium and long-term aid
14/01/05 - Almost three weeks after the tsunami, SOS Children's Villages continues to provide short-term emergency relief to affected children and their families in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, but has also refocused its aid efforts on the medium and long-term. The goal is to help devastated children and their families with the rebuilding of their futures.
Over the past week, affected families in India have been leaving emergency relief shelters and returning to the ruins of their villages. SOS Children's Villages is helping some 400 families in the tsunami-hit fishing communities in the districts of Kanyakumari, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore and Pondicherry to rebuild their homes and livelihoods.
Among the families being helped is that of Ramesh, who was helping his father prepare their fishing boat for work when the tsunami hit. Ramesh's father was washed away by the sea forever. The family's fishing equipment was completely destroyed. Ramesh and his mother and two sisters were left without their main breadwinner, and also lost their home and possessions.
The organisation's aid efforts are currently focused on the medium-term, in order to help affected families begin with the rebuilding process. SOS Children's Villages is providing these 400 families with an initial financial grant for the building of temporary shelter and basics such as food rations for two months and kitchenware.
The organization has also set up some nine activity centres providing day-care for children, offering psychological support and trauma healing through games, painting, music and story telling. Parents also receive psychological support to overcome the trauma. Up to 20 day-care centres for a total of 5,000 children should be in place within the next week.
To assist these families in the long-term, SOS Children's Villages will financially help them obtain fishing boats, nets and other required equipment and rebuild houses. The organisation has also received the approval of the Indian government to construct community buildings in these towns, which will serve, according to needs, as kindergartens, schools, health centres, etc.
A further 300 vulnerable single-parent families, mostly those which are female-headed and, therefore, particularly at risk of abandoning their children, will be assisted by SOS Children's Villages under a three-year programme providing education, nutrition, health services and various skills training.
A similar programme will also be operated for some 100 vulnerable families in Sri Lanka. At present, it is still not certain whether existing SOS facilities in the area will be sufficient to care for the numbers of children requiring long-term care. A decision on the construction of a new SOS Children's Village will be taken in the next weeks.
SOS Children's Villages continues to operate its various relief efforts through its existing facilities in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka, as well as in Piliyandala and Galle for assistance in the country's south.
In the east, some six to eight SOS child care centres have been and will be set up in the refugee camps of Iralodei, Wattawan, Kayankerni and Komari, intended to help up to 1,500 children in overcoming their traumas and to provide them with education.
In the south, some four to six SOS activity centres, which will care for 500 children, are in the planning. All these centres will be managed by local staff and volunteers in co-operation with the local authorities.
In addition, SOS Children's Villages has provided vehicles and drivers so that the Faculty of Medicine Karapitiya (Ruhunu University) can medically attend to refugees in some 40 camps in and around Galle. Youth from SOS facilities in Galle are also helping with the distribution of food and with the clean up of community offices.
SOS Children's Villages will help some 600 affected families in east Sri Lanka and some 150 in the south with an initial grant to build temporary shelter and buy basics such as kitchenware and food for two months. Similar to aid efforts in India, these 600 families are from fishing communities and will receive financial assistance from SOS Children's Village to buy boats, nets and other equipment and rebuild their houses.
Long-term plans of SOS Children's Villages in eastern Sri Lanka include obtaining government permission to construct homes and community buildings as well as schools, kindergartens and health centres in the affected towns of Komari and Iralodei.
As in India, it is likely that a new SOS Children's Village will be built in the Batticaloa area to care for children requiring long-term care, but this has not yet been finalised.
SOS Children's Village emergency teams continue to support the emergency efforts in the most badly affected areas of the province of Aceh. The volunteers, made up of trained professionals including doctors and psychologists, have been providing children in the many camps in and around the towns of Nagan Raya and Meulaboh with food and psychological support. Discussions are already underway with Indonesian officials regarding the construction of an SOS Children's Village in the north Sumatran province.