Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tsunami response – stepping into the fifth year Lessons and review from Sri Lanka

Eng. Aslam Saja
26 January 2010

The December 2004 tsunami was the largest natural disaster in Sri Lanka in living memory with over 35,000 dead, almost a million displaced around the north, east and south coasts of the island. Given the fact that most of the tsunami affected areas were also conflict- affected, there have always been peaks and falls in terms of long term tsunami recovery.

In October 2005, more than 60 institutions and more than 100 experts and practitioners in the tsunami response which consisted of representatives of government, civil society and international development partners met and reviewed the progress, identified the interventions and recommended the way forward for 2006. During this review it was felt that the first year of tsunami relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts have recorded quite significant successes. However there were shortcomings and the challenges for the future which all actors were aware. The report was prepared on “Post tsunami recovery and reconstruction – Progress, Challenges and the way forward” which summarized all the activities under seven thematic areas which are emergency response and relief, emergency shelter to permanent housing, restoring livelihoods, health, education and protection, upgrading national infrastructure, capacity building, environment and gender and the implementation of the guiding principles.

Since then it is the hope that in the completion of the second year all actors are committed to record a dramatic progress in this ‘build back better’ concept and to complete the enormous tasks overriding the identified challenges so that the affected communities by tsunami will be able to look forward a better future. In order to achieve the set targets, the agenda was defined by all the actors by taking into account the lessons learnt from the past year’s achievements, difficulties and setbacks to move the progress forward.

However, the political and security context of the country put this progress further down and there was a need arised to incorporate the conflict issues in the tsunami response programme in the north and east part of the country in the early part of this year. In this context of deteriorating security situation and the uncertain political environment has resulted in the slow pace of the development projects in the country. This has brought more stress on people and they are now bound to focus on their life at different angle with all these immense of human sufferings. This leads the actors in the tsunami response programmes and other key stakeholders in humanitarian action to reformulate their strategy in order to respond real community needs in the forthcoming year collectively towards alleviating the human sufferings.

In these scenarios, to address the issues in the conflict areas consolidated appeals process in Sri Lanka in which strategic planning leading to Common Humanitarian Action Plan can possibly be expected as a timely co-ordinated action in the humanitarian platform at least to respond this humanitarian crisis in the next few years.

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