INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Sri Lanka - Earthquake and Tsunamis:

Published: Fri 29 Apr 2005 06:18 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 COLOMBO 000811
SIPDIS
STATE ALSO PASS TO USAID
USAID/W FOR A/AID ANDREW NATSIOS, JBRAUSE
DCHA/OFDA KISAACS, GGOTTLIEB, MMARX, RTHAYER,
BDEEMER
AID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA
DCHA/FFP FOR LAUREN LANDIS
DCHA DEPUTY ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR WILLIAM
GARVELINK
ANE DEPUTY ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR MARK WARD
BANGKOK FOR OFDA SENIOR REGIONAL ADVISOR TOM DOLAN
KATHMANDU FOR OFDA REGIONAL ADVISOR WILLIAM BERGER
GENEVA FOR USAID KYLOH
ROME PASS FODAG
NSC FOR MELINE
CDR USPACOM FOR J3/J4/POLAD
USEU PASS USEC
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID AEMR PREL PGOV CE LTTE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA - EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMIS:
USAID/DART SITREP #21 - VISIT TO JAFFNA
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Summary
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1.The USAID/Disaster Assistance Response Team
(DART) field officer (FO) and USAID/Colombo
Project Development Specialist (PDS) traveled to
Jaffna from April 20 to 22 to monitor USAID/Office
of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)-funded
programs and review the progress of tsunami
recovery efforts. Four months after the tsunami
hit and the initial emergency response, recovery
efforts are moving forward. International and
national relief agencies were virtually unanimous
in their positive assessment of aid coordination
in Jaffna. The Government Agent (GA) for Jaffna
received high marks from all UN agencies and NGOs
interviewed for his robust engagement in the
recovery and reconstruction process. Challenges
in the shelter and livelihoods sector have held
back greater progress in the recovery process.
Specifically, uncertainty over the central
government's ultimate intentions in relation to
the buffer zone have left many key individuals
(including local officials and aid agency
personnel) in a position where they are hesitant
to move forward rapidly. In addition, limited
availability of land and the rising cost of
property near the coastline have restricted the
possibilities of re-building fishing communities
near the sea. Aid agencies are finding that
restoring livelihoods is more complicated than
originally imagined. Efforts by individuals,
villages, local fishermen's associations and
possibly the LTTE to manipulate donations of aid
to the fishing sector have given aid agencies
pause in their efforts to work in this area. Some
NGOs plan to conduct in-depth studies on
livelihoods in order to understand the political,
economic and social complexities of livelihood
restoration in post-tsunami Jaffna. Aid agencies
are also keenly aware of possible friction caused
by disparities in assistance going to tsunami-
affected displaced persons and the large number of
conflict-affected persons resident in Jaffna. End
summary.
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Coordination and Cooperation in Jaffna
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2.All aid agencies interviewed during the
course of the visit to Jaffna agreed that
coordination between UN agencies, NGOS, local
government and the LTTE was very good. Special
praise was given to the government agent (GA) for
Jaffna district for being engaged and supportive
of relief efforts. It was also noted that
collaboration between the GA, the force commander
of the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE on relief
and recovery interventions in Jaffna has been
relatively positive and productive. One senior
relief official explained this cooperation as the
joint mechanism already in progress.
3.While other tsunami-affected districts such
as Ampara and Galle suffer from coordination
problems brought on by a huge influx of NGOs and
d
individuals involved in recovery operations,
Jaffna has been largely spared from the chaos and
competition between too many aid agencies trying
to work in the same area. In a sense, Jaffna was
better placed to cope with the immediate emergency
needs triggered by the tsunami and subsequent
recovery efforts due to the presence of a number
of aid agencies already working with conflict-
affected populations. The UN agencies, NGOs and
international organizations already in place in
Jaffna responded immediately to the tsunami
thereby leaving relatively few gaps that required
coverage by others. Already knowing each other and
their respective agencies' capacities, the relief
groups were able to forge ahead quickly based on
the strength of existing staff and materials in
Jaffna. The small number of NGOs that set up
operations in Jaffna after the tsunami was folded
into the already existing coordination structures.
--------------------------------------------- -----
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Shelter for the Tsunami Displaced: Progress and
Challenges
--------------------------------------------- -----
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4.Aid agencies and local government officials
noted that virtually all tsunami-displaced persons
in Jaffna district have found adequate
accommodation with family and friends or have
received transitional shelters while they wait for
permanent housing solutions. USAID staff visited
a transitional housing site at Manatkadu built
with support from the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, UNICEF and
Action Contre Le Faim (ACF). The site houses 232
families who were forced to abandon their coastal
homes roughly 3 kilometers from their transitional
camp due to damage caused by the tsunami. All
basic facilities are in place including shelters,
latrines, water points, and garbage collection
bins. In addition, UNICEF has funded recreational
programs for the children of the transitional
center
5.The government in Jaffna has already
y
allocated land for the building of permanent homes
for the 232 families of Manatkadu. Fortunately,
the government owned land directly behind the
existing village and donated this land for the new
houses that will be built beyond the 200 meter
buffer zone. Housing plots had been staked out at
the new site although the building process has yet
to begin. The Grama Sewaka (GS) for Manatkadu
admitted that he was confused over the
government's intentions for rebuilding on these
new plots and the policy linked to the buffer
zone. This uncertainty over central government
policy and plans had led to delays in finding
permanent housing solutions.
6.Finding land close to the sea will be more
problematic in Point Pedro, the division hardest
hit by the tsunami in Jaffna district. Point
Pedro is densely populated and land is at a
premium. The task of identifying available land
for the 3,875 households displaced by the tsunami
at Point Pedro will take some time given the
government's intent to establish a 200-meter
buffer zone. Several sources in Jaffna indicated
that prices for land outside the buffer zone, yet
near the sea have sky-rocketed due to the huge
demand and limited land available. Comment: As in
many other parts of the country hit by the
tsunami, the government edict against rebuilding
SIPDIS
homes in the buffer zone along with the scarcity
of land near the sea for communities tied to the
sea for economic activities will cause lengthy
delays in the construction of permanent homes for
those people whose former homes fall within the
buffer zone. End comment.
--------------------------------------------- -
Livelihoods Restoration: Not Always So Simple
--------------------------------------------- -
7.While visiting the transitional shelter site
at Manatkadu, USAID staff observed a number of new
fishing boats adjacent to the road, approximately
3 kilometers from the sea. Men from Manatkadu
informed USAID staff that they received 10 boats
from the German Society for Technical Cooperation
(GTZ) in February. Two months later, the boats
still lay idle. USAID staff heard several
explanations for the unused boats. The
inhabitants of Manatkadu themselves stated that
they had decided that they would not use these 10
boats as they represented 25 percent of the boats
lost by the village. They did not feel that it
would be fair for the recipients of the 10 GTZ
boats to start fishing until the other 30
fisherman had received new boats as well. One aid
agency received information that the fisherman's
association had ordered those individuals with
boats to leave them on land until all requests for
new boats in the village had been met.
8.(SBU) A local source in Jaffna informed USAID
staff that the boats lay idle under instructions
from the LTTE. According to this individual, the
LTTE lost many of its boats during the tsunami and
is now seeking to replace them. It is believed
that the LTTE commanded the fisherman's
association and villagers to inflate the
requirements for boats beyond what the village had
lost to the tsunami in order to receive an
allocation of boats for the LTTE. The LTTE
ordered the local fisherman's association to keep
the boats out of the water until demands for
additional boats had been met by donors. Note:
This information was provided by one source and
could not be corroborated. End Note.
9.The main focus of relief agencies involved in
livelihood restoration is on the fishing sector
with many NGOs rushing to purchase boats for
affected communities based on requests from
individuals or fishing associations. However,
some NGOs are wary that individuals, villages and
the fisherman's association have inflated the
requirements for boats beyond the actual number
destroyed by the tsunami for economic gain. Many
households along the coast make their living from
fishing, but a relatively small percentage of the
households actually owned boats. Many individuals
work in ancillary activities such as mending nets
or drying fish. Boat owners tend to earn a
significantly higher income that those individuals
involved in other tasks related to fishing. It is
believed that many individuals who had not
previously owned boats prior to the tsunami will
now claim to have lost boats in order to receive a
free boat and thus increase their income
opportunities. Some NGOs are worried that the
economic and social network of fishing communities
could be negatively affected by the over-provision
of boats. In addition, the environment could
suffer if the number of boats on the sea increases
dramatically in certain areas. These NGOs are not
taking the requests at face value, but are
conducting studies and engaging in dialogue with
the community and its leaders to chart the best
course for the design and implementation of
livelihoods activities.
10.While much of the focus in the livelihoods
sector has been on the fishing industry, relief
agencies in Jaffna noted that attention must be
paid to farmers as well. Large areas of farmland
along the western coast (including islands) of
Jaffna district were flooded with sea water. The
water eventually drained from the fields, leaving
salt residue in the soil that will have a negative
impact on the ability of farmers to produce during
the coming planting seasons. Some NGOs are
starting to look at this problem and seek creative
solutions to support them while their fields
remain crippled by salt in the soil.
--------------------------------------------- -----
Continuing Work with Conflict Displaced of Jaffna
--------------------------------------------- -----
11.One recurring theme among the many aid
agencies interviewed during the trip to Jaffna was
the need for equity when working with both
tsunami-displaced and conflict-displaced
SIPDIS
communities. Staff and material resources had been
initially diverted to deal with the emergency
phase of the tsunami response. Several months
into the recovery phase, UN agencies, NGOs and
international organizations strive to find a
balance between serving their long-term, conflict-
affected beneficiaries and helping the tsunami-
affected population to recover. One impediment to
evenhanded assistance to both groups in Jaffna is
the huge amount of financial resources allocated
for the tsunami-affected households and
communities. If there is a great gap between the
level of assistance provided to the tsunami
displaced and the conflict displaced, there are
concerns that frictions could develop. Agencies
are looking for community development or
infrastructure projects that can potentially
benefit both groups. Another solution would be to
gain permission for donors (governmental and
private) to use a portion of the massive funds
collected for tsunami relief to support programs
to improve conditions for conflict affected
households as well. As an example, the Asian
Development Bank (ADB) is discussing a proposed $1
million grant with the GOSL that combines
assistance to conflict-affected populations with
new funds to reconstruct tsunami affected
communities.
ENTWISTLE
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