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January 22, 2011

Sarvoday’s relief efforts continue


Sarvodaya sends a relief team of professionals to the region hardest-hit by the floods for support, fact-finding and needs assessment. Most urgent needs remain food and shelter. Technical and needs assessments advised.

On January 16, as part of its response to the disaster situation, Sarvodaya put together a group of experts to travel to Thoppigala, Batticaloa in the Eastern province. The team comprised doctors; emergency medical professionals; disaster management professionals specializing in water purification and waste disposal; and social workers. The contingent travelled to Batticaloa to engage in relief efforts and provide medical support to flood victims.

After meeting with the Security Forces Commander for the Eastern Province, General Boniface Perera, the team was asked to cater to the needs of the 19,000 people in Thoppigala. As access was possible only by boat, the Security Forces coordinated with the army and on the following day the team was ferried to the area.

At the villages of Pulipaindakal, Periyawattavan, Eralikulam and others the team set up a medical camp, providing relief items including bottled water, milk powder, biscuits, sanitary pads and clothing. At the same time, the recovery capacity of the local community was strengthened as information and advice pertaining to health and hygiene, water purification, and the cleaning of wells were dispensed. In addition, stimulating play activities were organized for the children. 

The team encountered diarrhea among children and about 18% of the patients with diarrhea also had a fever. The group also found that the flooding had led to a worsening of chronic conditions, such as asthma. The initiative was an effective collaboration between different stakeholders, including government ministries, security forces, NGOs, civilian volunteers and Sarvodaya personnel.

Sarvodaya’s Mobile Medical Unit remained in Batticaloa for several days, to support local medical staff and provide additional medical facilities.

As the general consensus was that villagers should return to their homes and routines as soon as possible, Sarvodaya agreed to provide dry food rations for home cooking as opposed to continuing to cook hot meals in the temporary camps set up for the displaced population.

In addition to the villages that it had pinpointed for aid (Naripulthottam, Mahilavedduvan, Sathrukondan and Thamaraikerny), Sarvodaya agreed to send aid to the villages of Iyankerny, Ellianagar and Kumaraveliyar Kiramam of Eravur Pattu (Chenkalady), which were also found to be in need of assistance.

On a Friday (January 14) visit to Naripulthottam, Mahilavedduvan, Sathrukondan and Thamaraikerny, the Sarodaya team learned that there was no need to provide cooked meals there. The villagers from Naripulthottam had returned home and had sufficient food to cook their own meals for the coming day, although cooking was a challenge as firewood was difficult to find.

The displaced people sheltering in the school in Mahilavedduvan had dry food rations and were cooking together. However, their future was in question, as they had lost everything when their homes were washed away, and the government had announced that school would reopen on Monday. Their needs are being monitored.

On Saturday, Sarvodaya provided hot meals for the families from Sathrukondan/Lankapuram who had returned to their houses that morning to begin the clean-up process. Luckily, most of them were able to salvage their possessions. Those whose homes were completely destroyed are in the minority, but much help and supplies are still needed. Sarvodaya hopes to place orders for dry food rations as soon as possible, before prices rise.

From field visits conducted by Sarvodaya staff on January 17, it was learned that the two major problems remain food and shelter. Many roofs are damaged and leaky, and many homes suffered flood damage and are in need of repairs. Sarvodaya highlights the need for a technical assessment in collaboration with the affected communities.

Currently, Sarvodaya estimates that 2,700 dry ration packs are needed and has already ordered sufficient ingredients to make up 1,500 food packets.

Between January 10 and January 15, hot meals and dry rations were supplied to more than 3,000 people.
From December 28 to January 11, 8,046 people received cooked meals in 14 camps and one training center. 1,000 families received supplies of mineral water. 350 families received tarpaulins and other emergency supplies.

Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement for the People in Need.