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UMCOR continues tsunami work in Sri Lanka, other nations
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A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

Sri Lankan fishermen will receive funds to buy new boats and nets to replace those lost in the tsunami.

Dec. 19, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

Although security concerns have increased since the November presidential election in Sri Lanka, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is continuing its tsunami work there.

The agency also has addressed tsunami-related needs in India, Thailand and Somalia.

Since the beginning of its response, UMCOR has had a partnership with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, which has more than 30,000 members from all ethnic groups. A local partnership offers a number of advantages, especially since Sri Lankan Methodists are skilled at peace building and reconciliation and enjoy good relations with both the government and the Tamil rebel movement.

While tsunami projects relating to public infrastructure and income generation have moved ahead, a large-scale housing program approved by UMCOR directors last spring has been postponed to early next year for a variety of reasons, ranging from the weather to government regulations, according to Sharad Aggarwal, an UMCOR staff member in New York.

The $8 million housing and community services project will be in the districts of Trincomalee, Ampara, Battacaloa, Matara and Mullaitivu. The Methodist Church has identified about 1,200 families living in camps adjacent to their original communities who will benefit from the project.

Meanwhile, income generation remains a priority, and for Sri Lanka, that means restoring the livelihoods of those in the fishing industry.

Last spring, UMCOR and the Methodist Church consulted with the leaders of 28 fishing societies, comprising mostly Tamils and Hindus, about what they needed to help regain their livelihoods. The resulting weeklong beach clearance project in Kieran provided lunch and fair wages to workers from the societies.

UMCOR had earlier set aside $100,000 for the fishing societies, which is being used to assist with the purchase of boats, nets and other equipment.

The fishing project’s second phase may be related to training for fisheries, small-scale industries and farms, along with infrastructure needs such as access roads to the beach and access to fresh water. A draft project proposal will be developed, according to the November report from UMCOR Sri Lanka.

Other projects include:

  • Reconstruction of irrigation tanks in Periya-Kallar, completed Nov. 25.
  • Distribution of fruit seedlings for 1,200 families through four selected farmers’ organizations, completed Dec. 2.
  • Near-completion of the Muthur access road for farmers to their paddy field, with the rest to be completed by the farmers after the rainy season ends.
  • Plowing and issue of seed for the paddy field, also completed.

Programs under development by UMCOR Sri Lanka include the construction of semi-permanent classrooms and rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities for Pethalai school, an area badly affected by the tsunami and ethnic conflict. The facilities also would provide temporary shelter to those displaced because of flooding.

The rehabilitation of a school road in Kaluwenkerny village, north of Batticaloa, and a self-help housing plan in the Plmodai area also are under consideration.

UMCOR’s Batticaloa program staff has agreed to assist in emergency response due to flooding during the monsoon season, the November report said. UMCOR will be in charge of distributing food relief items from the United Nations to people in the Pethalai area.

Reconciliation also is important for Sri Lanka. UMCOR’s goal is to bring together community, religious and ethnic leaders “to form common decision-making groups, to plan the future of their communities, and to build trust and understanding.”

Partnerships in India

In India, UMCOR has been working with Churches Auxiliary for Social Action and the Methodist Church of India on tsunami relief.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
File photo by Paul Jeffrey, ACT International

Two girls care for their sleeping sister in a Buddhist temple in Galle, Sri Lanka.

This fall, UMCOR directors approved a grant of $505,983 to support tsunami recovery efforts by the Methodist Church of India in Chennai and the Andaman Island. Those efforts include scholarship help for nursing students whose families lost their income; the repair and building of houses; and church renovation for social service programs.

CASA — of which the Methodist Church of India is a member and UMCOR is a donor —  received a grant of $677,747 to restock supplies expended since the tsunami. A $320,000 grant to CASA also had been approved in April.

Directors earmarked $1 million for future application by CASA to allow the agency to respond to other disasters in India during a time when it is heavily involved in tsunami recovery and reconstruction.

Helping Thailand, Somalia

In Thailand, an UMCOR grant has assisted vulnerable Burmese families from Myanmar who live in Thailand’s coastal region.

UMCOR also assisted its longtime partner in Somalia, Center for Education and Development, which identified 2,750 destitute families whose breadwinners died or were injured because of the tsunami. The grant helped provide food rations, plastic sheeting and fishing equipment.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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