A nation mourns as
the catastrophic results of the massive tsunami which pounded the
coastal regions of Sri Lanka on the 26th December, continue to unfold.
This is the most devastating catastrophe the island has ever faced
in its long history. The official death toll to date is reported
at 30,178. UNICEF estimates 40% to be children. In many cases entire
families have been swept away to sea. IWMI has confirmed that, despite
some extremely close calls, all members of staff and their immediate
families are safe and accounted for.
Many of us know of, or experienced first hand,
the massive devastation to both life and property the tsunami caused.
Many of the less affected, in a bid to help, traveled to remote
coastal areas carrying emergency aid like drinking water, medical
supplies and food to those that survived. There are many, many heart
wrenching stories being told. Those who escaped with their lives
were relieved to be alive, but utterly traumatized and shocked -
just beginning to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster from
which they would undoubtedly take years to recover. Fishermen described
their horror when they saw the waves approaching them and how they
ran literally for their lives. Some spoke of their fear of ever
going out on a boat again. Many families especially those whose
houses were closer to the sea lost all their possessions and their
houses had been totally destroyed. There is also obviously the loss
of life. In some families many family members had died including
young children. Horrifying stories were related of children being
snatched out of their parents’ arms due to the force of the
water, and others of entire families being washed away to the ocean.
Entire fleets of fishing boats in remote villages all around the
south and eastern coastlines have been destroyed by the tsunami
and with that the livelihoods of many of the families that were
dependent on fishing as their primary source of income.
The number of people displaced by the tsunami
is reported to be over one and a half million. The Sri Lankan Government
declared a state of national emergency and is struggling to cope
with the enormity of the destruction left behind by this natural
catastrophe of such mammoth scale. What is becoming increasingly
clear by the moment, however, is the humanitarian crisis which now
confronts us. The world has come together and responded to the crisis
in a way that has almost certainly never been seen before. Aid is
starting to get through to some of the more remote parts of the
area destroyed by the tsunami.
IWMI’s headquarters have been hosted in
Sri Lanka since its inception (1984). IWMI has worked in many of
the affected areas for at least 15 years. This both gives us strong
motivation to try to help the people we have worked with and has
also given us expertise that can be put to good use. Therefore to
support current relief efforts underway in our host country, IWMI
has planned its efforts in three phases:
1) Immediate emergency relief:
IWMI sent emergency supplies through six missions starting on December
27th to affected areas in the east and south of Sri Lanka (including
Galle, Baticaloa and Ampara). We also transported victims back to
safe areas. Given the aid now coming into the country our contribution
to emergency relief has been completed.
2) Launching an IWMI and CGIAR System wide appeal
to support rebuilding of communities:
Today, the 5th January 2005 IWMI is launching
a CGIAR system wide appeal. The money raised through this appeal
will support at least two coastal communities, one each on the south
(predominantly Sinhalese and Muslim) and east (predominantly Tamil
and Muslim) coasts of the island. The money raised through this
appeal will be used to re-build and re-develop the communities;
we are in the process of identifying them.
3) Action based on institutional capacity:
IWMI will try to contribute to specific activities
where we can use our experience and expertise. The primary effort
to date is in the area of remote sensing and GIS. The IWMI GIS/RS
unit is working with an UK based NGO, MapAction, in preparation
of situation maps that are updated twice a day. The 11 strong MapAction
team is based in the Centre for National Operations (CNO) attached
to the Presidential Secretariat. They specialize in provision of
mapping in disaster situations.
IWMI GIS staff are working in shifts to give
24-hour coverage. IWMI has provided two vehicles for GPS survey
teams and has provided hardware and software. The IWMI team is acquiring
free high-resolution imagery from the Indian National Remote Sensing
Agency. Other data sets are being collected and processed.
IWMI is assessing opportunities to provide technical
expertise related to water quality monitoring, assessing water infrastructure
damage and post-disaster rapid rural appraisal techniques.
In addition, IWMI will host a team of 15 from
the World Food Program (WFP) at its headquarters and the IWMI Embilipitiya
field station has been made available to the UNHCR. IWMI field staff,
equipment and vehicles are made available to relief agencies.
We thank you for all your messages
of support and prayers. It is a very hard time for the whole region
and your support will be greatly appreciated, especially in raising
funds for the appeal that we are launching today. If you, your colleagues,
families or friends wish to contribute to the appeal please send
donations to the following accounts. Further updates on IWMI’s
relief effort will be posted on the IWMI web site
Back to Top ^
Download PDF file