Rutland Rescue Tsunami Appeal
Visit to Ampara DistrictOn 14-15 January Upali Daranagama, Sujeewa Ratnakumara (on behalf of WINGS) and Sunith Fernando visited Ampara District.
BackgroundThe districts of Ampara and Hambantota account for about 50% of the deaths and 30% of affected families. Damaged schools in the Ampara district accounts for about 25% of the national total. Hence, we thought these two districts deserve our attention within the framework of the WINGS initiative.
As planned originally, we intend to have a limited focus in our WINGS rehabilitation initiative so that the activities could be managed within our available resources - both physical and financial. The latter aspect is very important because the rehabilitation initiative of WINGS is privately funded by overseas friends and us. Our focus was, therefore, to assist the reconstruction of partly damaged schools and to provide the affected children with the basic needs for them to attend the school again.
The other area of focus we had in mind was to support existing orphanages in the affected regions to expand their capabilities to absorb more children. However, we later learnt that the current thinking of the national rehabilitation programme is to promote foster parent schemes to support orphaned children rather than housing them in orphanages. Apparently, the reason behind this is to prevent children from getting the feeling of being “orphaned” (which probably gives them a distinct demoralising social status) and to absorb them into the mainstream society as being equal to any other child. It is reported that the government is devising elaborate mechanisms to ensure that the adopted children will have a normal life in their new family environments. We, therefore, decided not to work in this area, but to focus more on the needs of schools.
Prior to planning our activities, we also noted that many agencies are already working in the Hambantota district and, therefore, decided to focus our immediate attention to the Ampara district. On 14/15 January we visited the villages of Pottuvil, Komari and Panama in the Ampara district for an initial assessment of what contribution we could make in reconstructing schools and supporting children to get back to schools once they are opened.
This note presents our observations on the ground situation in the region and suggestions for probable interventions by WINGS.
Pottuvil (above) has experienced severe damage to most of its houses and the physical infrastructure like roads and the bridge over Arugam Bay (below). The government has provided temporary shelter (canvas tents) to almost all the affected families. Police, Navy and a Canadian team are jointly operating a boat service across the Arugam Bay to enable people to travel to villages situated south of Pottuvil.
A total of 7 schools in Pottuvil have been damaged – 4 fully destroyed and 3 partly damaged. AL AQZA School situated close to the coast is one of the partly damaged schools. It requires the rebuilding of the library (below) and its facilities, restoring the water supply system and building of new toilet facilities. Of the 504-student population, 53 have died. Head of the school plans to reopen the school with whatever facilities that remain in the premises. We thought restoration of the damaged facilities could be undertaken under the WINGS initiative. School also needs furniture, which we might include in the assistance programme subject availability of funds.
What we saw in the village of Komari (below) is total devastation. As Komari would need a large-scale intervention for rehabilitation, we realised that our limited efforts would not contribute much to the redevelopment of this village.
Visit to the village of Panama situated at the northern boundary of the Kumana Bird Sanctuary was somewhat difficult as floodwater of Wila Oya still flows across the road (below). Large sand dunes on the coast have saved the school in Panama, but the houses of about 20 students have been washed off by the Tsunami waves. We decided to buy the basic requirements such as clothing, shoes and books etc. for the affected students to enable them to restart schooling. A similar situation exists in the small primary school in Uraniya, where 18 children are facing the same situation as in Panama.