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Cablegate: Sri Lanka - Earthquake and Tsunamis:

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
USAID/DART SITREP #23 - Shelter Assessment of East


1.From May 2 - 9, the USAID/Office of U.S.
Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) Shelter
Specialist traveled to Sri Lanka to monitor
USAID/OFDA shelter partners and assess the
situation of shelter in Sri Lanka following the
tsunami. On May 4 and 5, the USAID/OFDA Shelter

Specialist, USAID/Disaster Assistance Response
Team (DART) Information Officer (IO), and
USAID/Colombo Project Management Assistant
traveled to Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Kalmunai
to monitor USAID/OFDA-funded transitional shelter
programs and visit tsunami-affected areas. The
USAID team met with representatives from Shelter
for Life (SFL) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
during this field visit to the east. Logistics,
lack of supplies, ethnic tensions, low levels of
development, and local regulations - in particular
the 200 meter buffer zone - have impeded the
progress of the transitional shelter sector in
eastern Sri Lanka. End summary.

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Meeting with UNHCR

2. On May 2, the USAID team met with the U.N.
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Shelter
Coordinator in Colombo. She explained that
according to the Government of Sri Lanka's (GOSL)
housing survey, the tsunami destroyed 41,000
homes. The GOSL assumes that 25 percent of these
families will stay with host families until
permanent housing is built, and therefore
approximately 30,000 transitional shelters will be
needed. However, the UNHCR Shelter Coordinator
stated that an additional 36,000 houses were
damaged and explained that since more than one
family lives in a household, particularly in the
east, the actual number of shelters needed may be
as high as 114,000 (using an average household
size of 1.5 families and 76,000 total damaged or
destroyed houses). The GOSL reports that 15,000
transitional shelters have been constructed to
date, but UNHCR suspects that the actual number is
closer to 10,000. Because the GOSL's Transitional
Accommodation Project (TAP) believes that only
30,000 transitional shelters are needed, the TAP
plans to end operations following the construction
of these 30,000 shelters.

3. According to the UNCHR Shelter Coordinator,
many NGOs operating in tsunami-affected areas do
not have sufficient experience or capacity in
shelter. Some of these NGOs are inexperienced in
general while other larger NGOs have become
involved in shelter, even though they did not have
shelter experience. In addition, some
international NGOs that received large donations
following the tsunami and some smaller private
organizations are not coordinating with UNHCR or
other NGOs. The UNHCR Shelter Coordinator
reported that the USAID/OFDA shelter partners
(SFL, CRS, GOAL, and CHF) are all progressing and
coordinating very well.

Meeting with Shelter Partners

4. On May 3, the USAID team met with USAID/OFDA's
shelter partners to discuss progress and
impediments in the shelter sector following the
tsunami. According to USAID/OFDA's partners, the

lack of consistent decision-making and follow
through by local authorities has made it difficult
for shelter projects to progress. The meeting
participants explained that the TAP plays an
advisory role to the government but is unable to
make decisions. The Taskforce to Rebuild the
Nation (TAFREN) only has slightly more decision-
making power. As a result, there is a need for
better oversight and local accountability. Prior
to the tsunami, the Urban Development Authority
(UDA) was responsible for land use issues but is
currently overwhelmed. In addition, the UDA can
not appropriate land. Due to the difficulties in
reaching decisions, NGOs and UNHCR are working
with TAFREN to identify the decision making
process more clearly.

5. In response to participants' statements that
there is not enough suitable land for transitional
and permanent housing, the USAID/OFDA Shelter
Specialist recommended that a parcel-level land
survey be conducted in the buffer zone. The GOSL
has designated buffer zones of 200 meters in the
east and 100 meters in the south where new
construction will not be allowed without the
consent of the government and residents will be
unable to repair their homes. (Note: It remains
unclear what kind of construction will be allowed
within the buffer zone). A land use survey would
allow the humanitarian community to demonstrate
how the buffer zone will impact human settlement
and the economy as people are unable to pursue
their livelihoods.

Trincomalee - Progress impeded by uncertainty

6. On May 4, the USAID team met with
representatives from SFL to discuss SFL's
transitional shelter program in Kinniya Division
of Trincomalee District. USAID/OFDA has provided
$1,026,185 to support SFL with the construction of
transitional shelters, repair of homes, and
construction of latrines in Trincomalee. SFL's
activities are focused in the village of Kinniya
which is a Muslim community. According to UNHCR,
as of May 2, the tsunami displaced 72,986 persons
in Trincomalee District, of which more than two-
thirds are staying with relatives and friends.

7. Trincomalee District has substantial Muslim,
Tamil, and Sinhalese populations and assistance
programs must keep this ethnic balance in mind in
program designs. For example, Tamil beneficiaries
should be relocated to Tamil-owned land and Tamil
laborers need to work on the project otherwise
protests may result. An additional complication
to tsunami assistance programs is the need to
consider those persons displaced by the civil
conflict. According to UNHCR, there are
approximately 35,000 people displaced by the civil
conflict in Trincomalee and 27,000 in Batticaloa.

8. Bureaucratic obstacles have greatly impeded
SFL's progress. For example, SFL did not receive
the list of beneficiaries for transitional
shelters until the end of February and is still
working on finalizing a memorandum of
understanding with the local government. In
addition, there have been six Divisional
Secretaries (DS) since the tsunami making

consistent decision-making difficult. Since
receiving the beneficiary list, SFL conducted an
assessment of the community, including information
on vulnerable populations such as widows, elderly,
disabled, orphans, or pregnant women and cleared
land for shelters through cash-for-work programs.

9. The imposition of the VAT on SFL's supplies
caused an additional delay for SFL. USAID
partners are not required to pay VAT in accordance
with a bilateral agreement between the U.S.
Government and GOSL. SFL waited for VAT clearance
while SFL, USAID/Colombo, and the U.S. Embassy
sought to address this issue with the GOSL but in
the end, SFL paid more than $100,000 in VAT in
order to receive their shelter materials.

10. At the time of the USAID team's visit,
materials had just arrived for the SFL
transitional shelters. Prior to the arrival of
the materials, SFL worked with 200 families to
prepare them to move to transitional shelter sites
through a cash-for-work site clearance project.
SFL predicts that as many as 50 shelters can be
built in a day once all the supplies are in place.
There are 20 masons among the beneficiary
population so SFL will employ these masons through
cash-for-work and hire additional masons as
needed. The structures are made of plastic
sheeting, tin roofs, and metal poles for the
frames so the materials are both reusable and
easily transportable. As of May 7, SFL had
completed 40 shelters.

11. The USAID team visited two sites where SFL
beneficiaries are currently staying in tent camps.
In the first site, as many as 150-200 families
were sharing low-quality tents, sometimes with as
many as 2-3 families per tent. At the second
site, approximately 100 families were staying in
very high-quality tents donated by the Italian
government on the grounds of a school. The
difference between the two sites was remarkable.
At the first site, the atmosphere was markedly
tense and gloomy and residents did not want to
talk to the USAID team. In the second site
however, residents talked with the USAID team and
invited the team to examine their tents.

12. According to the USAID/Office of Transition
Initiatives (OTI) representative in Trincomalee,
many organizations, including SFL, have had
difficulties with payment of the VAT. In
addition, only tourist hotels registered with the
tourist board will be allowed to rebuild, leaving
out many smaller, family-run guest houses. The
local government is considering plans to build a
lagoon and a mangrove forest in the 200 meter
buffer zone. In Mutur town, the GOSL is building
a navy base in the buffer zone.

13. The USAID team attended a meeting led by
UNHCR of designated shelter heads of the divisions
in Trincomalee District. Oxfam, ZOA, Caritas/CRS,
and the Norwegian Refugee Council attended the
meeting. The participants discussed the need to
ensure that water and sanitation services are
provided at sites before moving people. In
addition, the participants described competition
between NGOs and the lack of coordination. Some
NGOs are not waiting for the local government's
designated beneficiary lists and are trying to
convince local communities to accept transitional
shelters from them instead of the NGO designated
to provide transitional shelters. ZOA reported
that in Mutur, the government allocated land but
the private land owner is now asking for rent.
The government has agreed to pay for up to six
months but it's unclear what will happen next.
NRC reported that some people are refusing to move
to sites because the International Organization
for Migration (IOM) has been building larger, more
expensive shelters, in violation of the agreed
upon standards for transitional shelters. In
addition, IOM is paying beneficiaries more than
the going rate for cash-for-work in the
construction of shelters.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Batticaloa and Kalmunai - CRS Shelters Progressing
--------------------------------------------- -----

14. In Batticaloa, the USAID team met with CRS
and their local partner Eastern Human Economic
Development (EHED) to evaluate the progress of
their transitional shelter activities and the
sector on the whole. USAID/OFDA has provided
$3,048,000 to CRS for transitional shelter, home
repair and latrine construction in Batticaloa and
Ampara districts.

15. According to UNHCR, as of May 2,
approximately two-thirds of the 54,817 displaced
in Batticaloa District were staying with friends
and relatives. According to the TAP, as of May 2,
3,494 transitional shelters had been built in
Batticaloa District out of a required total of
11,725 (30 percent). Currently, approximately 80
percent of the completed shelters are occupied.
Families still need to be allocated to the
remaining 20 percent.

16. CRS reported that they have completed 433 of
a planned 1,533 transitional shelters (28 percent)
to date in Batticaloa District. According to CRS,
the delay in the supply chain has been the biggest
impediment to progress to date. For example,
supplies have been delayed in customs due to
issues with the VAT and it is difficult to procure
supplies locally. CRS estimates that
approximately 80 percent of CRS beneficiaries will
be able to remain on their own land.

17. The USAID team visited a CRS transitional
shelter settlement of 151 shelters in Arayampathy
Division. The beneficiaries cleared the land
through cash-for-work and CRS gave them their
tools upon completion. The residents receive
USAID-donated food rations every fifteen days
through the GOSL. The shelters were constructed
with palm fronds, wooden frames, and tiles for the

18. The USAID team met one beneficiary who made
candy for sale prior to the tsunami and is now
gathering scrap iron for sale. This man's
residence showed how beneficiaries frequently
jumpstart the reconstruction process. Since
moving into his shelter, he has increased the size
of his shelter by almost 50 percent with materials
he purchased.

19. In Kalmunai, CRS has completed 500 of a
planned 2,000 transitional shelters and the first
shelters were completed in mid February. CRS
explained that three NGOs (Samaritans' Purse, ZOA,
and CRS) divided responsibility for transitional
shelters in the Kalmunai area. The shelters
consist of plastic sheeting, tin roofs with
thermal insulation to reduce heat, and timber
frames. CRS has developed a carpentry shop on the
site to repair latrines as part of its cash-for-
work activities.


20. The 200 meter buffer zone appears to have
greatly increased the difficulty of successfully
completing transitional shelter projects on the
eastern coast. Due to the scarcity of land, NGOs
are struggling to find acceptable locations for
transitional shelters. The difficulty in
receiving clear directions and decisions from
local officials' decisions regarding transitional
shelters does not bode well for the much more
complicated process of determining permanent
settlements. Furthermore, since the tsunami
inundation zone extends far beyond the 200 meter
buffer zone in many areas, justification for the
buffer zone as a safety precaution remains weak.


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