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UN Tours Tsunami Countries – First Stop Sri Lanka

UN Assistant Secretary-General Tours Tsunami Countries to Move Recovery Effort Forward – First Stop is Sri Lanka

/16 February, Colombo, Sri Lanka/ – A top United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) official will make a two-week sweep through Asian countries hardest hit by the tsunami to examine ways and means for moving forward with the recovery effort. UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Hafiz Pasha, begins his Asian trip in Sri Lanka on Thursday, where he will travel to tsunami-devastated coastal areas, and meet with senior government officials. His regional tour, which will span Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Indonesia and Thailand, includes consultations with donor partners in the UK and Japan.

“Seven weeks after the tsunami, it is now necessary to take stock of the humanitarian response and more clearly define the transitional stage into recovery and long-term reconstruction,” says Mr. Pasha. "Through it all, the needs, hopes, and involvement of the communities hardest hit by the tsunami must be at the heart of the work at hand,” he says.

The scale of the national disaster is unprecedented in Sri Lanka. Some 30,900 lives were lost, several thousand more are missing and at least 15,000 were injured. Almost a million were displaced from their homes, with 100,000 homes damaged and three-quarters of those completely destroyed. Roughly 276,000 workers in the affected districts lost their jobs and sources of income.

“Of utmost importance to us is helping communities get their lives back on track,” says Mr. Pasha. “We want to help restore incomes to families, ranging from provision of boats and nets to fishermen, to cash for work projects. The areas that were hit were already poor. Now the tsunami has struck a major blow to their ability to reduce their poverty. Markets have been disrupted and employment opportunities wiped out.”

UNDP is providing resources to support local communities through small-scale cash-for-work initiatives to restore minor infrastructure, such as small access roads, irrigation channels and culverts – all important for kick-starting the recovery process. During his three days in Sri Lanka, Mr. Pasha will visit coastal Ampara where rubble-clearing projects are imminent, including the recycling of debris to rebuild homes. Groups of local women will be mobilized and hired to sort and clear the debris.

Mr. Pasha will also meet with a group of Parliamentarians as part of a new initiative in which parliament has requested assistance from UNDP to establish a Select Committee for Disaster Preparedness. The Committee will oversee issues of disaster prevention and early warning systems.

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