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Plan Reports From Southern Coast of Sri Lanka

30 December 2004

Plan Reports From Southern Coast of Sri Lanka

Estimates That 1/3 of Dead are Children; Millions More Homeless

Plan Sri Lanka's Program Unit Manager R W W Wijerathne reports from Hambantota, a coastal district particularly hard-hit by the devastating Tsunami, as part of its South East program unit. Mr Wijerathne managed to get through to Hambantota within hours of receiving the news of the disaster.

According to recent figures 1,000 people in Hambantota District alone were killed -- some estimates stating that 1/3 of the dead in Sri Lanka are children and there are eye witness accounts of many more bodies still floating in lagoons.

"One especially awful fact is that so many of the victims seem to be either young children or old people, who were least able to survive the savagery of the sea. Many had come in from surrounding villages to enjoy the market days in three coastal urban centres when the waves struck," said Mr Wijerathne.

"Many are grieving for the death of children and other loved ones. Over 11,000 people in Hambantota District alone have lost everything -- their homes, their means of livelihood, and even their clothes. Children are now in temporary camps in temples and schools, where ensuring clean water, sanitation and food is going to be a major problem."

Plan has launched an international appeal and is already in receipt of pledges of over US$975,000 but much more is needed. Funds raised will be used to support both short and long-term emergency relief and rehabilitation, including much needed food, clothing, housing and fresh water.

Plan is committed to working with affected communities for the long term and thus funds are required to both meet basic needs and also to support the rehabilitation and restoration of family livelihoods.

Plan Sri Lanka quickly contributed $200,000 to the National Disaster Coordinating Committee, $100,000 to support immediate relief needs throughout the country which means that Plan's donation for emergency relief is already at work, supporting hard-pressed government services and $100,000 earmarked for rehabilitation in Hambantota District.

Plan is now identifying priority needs for relief and long-term rehabilitation, 2 senior officials from Plan Asia, Michael Diamond, Regional Director and Terence McCaughan, Regional Programme Support Manager are visiting Hambantota to see the situation first hand and help identify priority needs for relief and long term rehabilitation.

"Meeting the immediate needs is just the beginning of the problem. It isn't just that people must rebuild their homes. Many must try to earn a living again, having lost their means of livelihood. For example, many small open fishing boats on which the areas economy largely depends, have been smashed," said Michael Diamond, Plan Asia's Regional Director.

In Asia, Plan also works with India, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh, which have all been affected by the tsunami. In these countries, Plan can confirm that none of the communities which which it works were hit by the tidal waves. Plan Indonesia and Plan India are, however, working with local government and partner agencies to assess the situation and support the disaster response where required.

Plan is an international child centred community development organisation works in over 60 countries. Plan has no religious or political affiliation. Child sponsorship is the basic foundation of our work with children around the world.

ENDS

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