In this podcast a Tamil Catholic humanitarian worker describes the suffering of civilians caught up in the firing line. Read also about the work of Trcaire in Sri Lanka which includes rebuilding projects after the 2004 tsunami.


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This podcast made available from Vatican Radio


Sri Lanka

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At the southern tip of India, the tropical island of Sri Lanka fell under Portuguese, Dutch and British rule before gaining its independence as Ceylon in 1948 and declaring itself a Republic in 1972.

The island has experienced longstanding ethnic tensions between the Singhalese majority and the Tamil minority in the north and east. This led to over twenty years of civil war from the 1980s which has recently ended with the military defeat of the ‘Tamil Tigers’.

2004 Tsunami

Sri Lanka was the second worst affected country hit by the tsunami of December 2004, after Indonesia. A total of 31,229 people were killed, 4,093 remain missing, and 516,150 were made homeless and displaced. In the aftermath of this disaster, 90% of working men and women lost their means of income.

59 schools were destroyed and another 117 partially damaged schools were pressed into use as camps for those who had lost their homes. For the people of coastal Sri Lanka the tsunami brought mass graves, mass displacement, destroyed homes and a crippled fishing industry. Sri Lanka faces a reconstruction bill estimated to be at $1.5 billion.

Trcaire’s response

Trcaire had been involved in Sri Lanka supporting small relief and rehabilitation projects in the North and East for more than 10 years before the island was struck by the devastating Tsunami in December 2004.

Trcaire is funding work throughout the affected coastal districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara in the east, Galle, Matara, Hambandota and Colombo in the south and Jaffna and Mullaitivu in the north of the country.

Trcaire has already spent 3.37 million in Sri Lanka in 2005 and the first half of 2006. A further 1.5 million is committed for the second half of 2006, with another 3.73 million to be allocated between 2006 and 2008.

Caritas Sri Lanka Sedec

Trcaire’s main partner in Sri Lanka is Caritas Sri Lanka Sedec who are a national church based organization with implementing offices in all the affected districts. As well as funds, Trcaire in recognition of the scale of the programme has and continues to support Caritas Sri Lanka with technical experts to advise on Shelter, Finance, Livelihoods, Monitoring and Evaluation and Communications.

Achievements by Caritas Sri Lanka includes the following:

  • Provision of over 30,000 people with immediate emergency relief, including temporary shelter, kitchen utensils and blankets and bedding.
  • Provision of a total of 2,452 tents and plastic sheeting.
  • Construction of 6,755 transitional shelters/homes.
  • 12,000 children were helped return to school.
  • The construction of 12,155 permanent houses is underway, 1,059 have already been built, 1,705 are in progress or almost complete and a further 9,391 are planned by the end of 2008.
  • Over 4,000 damaged houses have or are being repaired.
  • Trcaire funds helped almost 10,000 households get back to work thanks to the provision, or repair, of 789 boats, 2,246 fishing nets, 2,079 tool kits to support tradesmen and small enterprises and the payment of 65,249 ‘cash for work’ working days.
  • 4,069 households benefited from improved water and sanitation facilities (eg new or repaired latrines, wells constructed, water tanks provided, etc).
  • 1,380 coconut trees have been planted for disaster prevention.
  • 457 adults and 1,408 children received psychosocial counselling support as a result of the trauma suffered as a result of the tsunami.
  • Plans are in place to rebuild or repair 30 children’s homes, 24 community centres, five vocational training centres, four health centres, 23 market places and seven playgrounds.