Cablegate: Usaid Tsunami Reconstruction Program in Sri Lanka

O 180547Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. USAID /Sri Lanka has completed all projects related to the
tsunami disaster of 2004, and funds of $134.6 million have been
fully expended. The initial response to the tsunami during the
first few months immediately following the disaster focused on
emergency relief, providing basic necessities in communities across
the South and the East. To help communities return to normalcy,
USAID later funded small grants to open small businesses and put
people back to work. Small-scale infrastructure projects improved
the quality of life for communities and created economic
opportunities focused on providing more immediate results. Large
infrastructure projects, including nine vocational training centers
and the Arugam Bay Bridge, will have a lasting economic and social
impact on the country. Woven throughout these efforts was USAID's
strong commitment to working with local communities by encouraging
their participation in all aspects of the projects. Finally, while
the immediate objective was to restore tsunami-affected communities,
USAID also endeavored to bring together the three ethnic communities
(Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim) in the East, in an effort to build
better understanding and cooperation amongst the groups. End


2. On December 26, 2004, a tsunami caused tremendous destruction to
coastal communities across thousands of miles in South Asia. In Sri
Lanka, 30,000 people were left dead, almost 4,000 were missing, and
nearly 800,000 were displaced and left without basic shelter, food,
and water. Coastal regions of the South and East were affected,
while the North and much of the West were untouched.

3. An outpouring of assistance from international NGOs and donors,
together with that of the Government of Sri Lanka and domestic NGOs,
addressed the immediate emergency needs of affected populations.
Once emergency needs were met, the focus shifted to reconstruction
and community building activities. USAID was given a budget of
$134.6 million in relief and reconstruction assistance for Sri

Activities: Relief ($40.6 million)

4. USAID provided $40.6 million in emergency relief to help
communities deal with the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
USAID distributed 553 rain water harvesting tanks and 312 latrines;
constructed 24 dug wells and 13 tube wells to improve local
sanitation conditions; and conducted two workshops for government
health officials on hygiene, water quality testing, and food
quality. Consistent with USAID/Sri Lanka's commitment to working
collaboratively with local communities, USAID surveyed local
populations on hygiene and sanitation, and then trained skilled
laborers on proper construction techniques and the local community
on personal hygiene and sanitation. Using funding from USAID,
UNICEF constructed 15 water treatment plants that benefited 550
families living in permanent shelters. USAID funding also helped to
build capacity within the Auditor General's Department to handle the
large influx of international funds that Sri Lanka received for
rehabilitation and reconstruction activities, while limiting the
opportunities for corruption.

5. Recognizing that long-standing animosity between the three ethnic
communities has been an impediment to building a more stable and
prosperous Sri Lanka, USAID sought innovative ways to encourage the
communities to work together during this rebuilding process. USAID
mobilized more than 4,600 volunteers in the cross-cultural Sri
Lankan tradition of 'shramadana,' in support of livelihoods-related
projects that helped tsunami-affected communities to build back
better. This included an estimated 1,500 volunteers, many of them
youth, who supported activities that kick-started traditional
agriculture-based livelihoods in adjacent Muslim, Tamil, and
Sinhalese communities in an area of the diverse eastern district of
Ampara, which has been prone to ethnic conflict.

Activities: Transition from Camps to Communities ($20.7 million)

6. Realizing that people displaced by the tsunami could not return
to their homes until the local community was able to absorb them,
USAID focused on short-term activities to help people get back to
work quickly. USAID funding restored nearly 2,000 local businesses
to operation, and the small grants program trained nearly 4,000
tsunami-affected men and women in a variety of job skills needed in
local communities including animal husbandry, desktop publishing,
entrepreneurship, information technology, personal finance and
credit, and disaster management planning. USAID also built one
public market and rehabilitated two others, including the
Anuradhapura Junction Market in Trincomalee, a project that united
diverse members of a violence-prone section of the northeast
seacoast town, leveraging $350,000 from Hellenic Aid to double the
project budget.

Activities: Infrastructure/Small-Scale ($14.8 million)

7. Funding was used to improve small-scale infrastructure that
directly benefited local communities and helped improve economic
opportunities. USAID built or rehabilitated nine public markets, 13
libraries, 14 community centers, 31 schools, three bus stands, two
health centers, 14 irrigation reservoirs, and 11.5 miles of
irrigation canals. USAID focused on creating economic opportunities
by constructing or rehabilitating six vocational training centers
and 16 community buildings that contributed to the local economy,
including a rice mill, a handloom center, and a government
agricultural extension center. To further support local economic
opportunities, USAID resurfaced more than 35 kilometers of rural
roads, connecting agriculture-based communities with larger markets,
schools, and health infrastructure.

Activities: Infrastructure/Large Scale ($47.8 million)

8. To help communities recover from the effects of the tsunami in
the short-term and to enable Sri Lanka to meet the challenges of a
competitive business environment in the long-term, USAID funded
large-scale infrastructure projects that will have a significant
impact on communities for many years to come. The Arugam Bay
Bridge, destroyed by the tsunami, was rebuilt, linking diverse
communities in this coastal area. Nearby, the Ulla/Pottuvil Water
Treatment Plant will bring clean drinking water to 40,000 families,
businesses, and hotels. Together, these projects make it possible
for the area to reclaim its status as a popular tourist destination,
helping to revive the local economy. In another effort to spur
economic growth, USAID rehabilitated three fishing harbors that were
damaged by the tsunami, improving harbor conditions and providing
sanitary and attractive locations for customers and fishers alike.

9. Recognizing that economic growth is linked to the availability of
a skilled labor force, USAID constructed nine vocational training
centers in the South and East. Working with local employers, USAID
helped to create training curricula that will give students the
skill set they need to be successful in jobs where skilled workers
are in high demand. Training in information technology, apparel,
small engine repair, and the construction trades are most popular,
with strong demand for graduates in the local areas. USAID was able
to leverage nearly $2.5 million in private sector funds to
supplement the funding for the vocational education schools.

10. Though the vocational training centers have only recently
opened, we are already seeing the impact of our investment in
several ways. First, the number of applications received by the
vocational training centers is more than four times the available
openings, with computer information technology generating the
strongest interest from students. In addition, private sector
employers in the apparel industry in the East have already indicated
their interest in hiring the first graduates from the programs.
Finally, two of the vocational training centers were built to a high
level of energy efficiency and environmental design standards,
significantly reducing operating costs for electricity and water
services for those buildings. This has inspired Sri Lanka's largest
apparel manufacturer, Brandix Lanka Limited, to construct its new
manufacturing complex using these same materials and design
elements, earning the company a rare platinum rating for Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings by the
U.S. Green Building Council. Further, the engineers, architects,
construction companies, and trades contractors who worked on the two
LEED certified vocational training centers now have the training and
experience to bring those new skills to future projects. USAID
hopes that these construction professionals will transfer this
technology to create additional energy efficient and environmentally
friendly projects in Sri Lanka, helping the country reduce its
overall energy consumption.

Activities: Technical Assistance/Good Governance ($10.9 million)

11. To assist Sri Lanka in addressing a wide range of community
issues, USAID funded programs that provided technical assistance to
government representatives and trained local people in
community-building skills. USAID trained local government officials
in a range of needed skills such as participatory planning and
disaster management, citizen participation, conflict mitigation,
auditing, and accounting techniques to prevent bribery and combat
corruption. Local citizens participated in many of the trainings
above, as well as community consultations to gather feedback, a
national symposium of planning hosted by the central government, and
a network of citizen committees aimed at facilitating dialogue
between tsunami-affected communities and the local authorities who
served them. USAID tracked the effectiveness of these efforts
through the Local Authority Development Scale (LADS), a tool
designed specifically to measure the capacity of local government in
22 tsunami-affected areas. In 2005, LADS measured local government
performance as 20.09 (out of 100); in 2007, performance was measured
at 56.26 - suggesting that with support, local governments were
better able to meet the needs of their citizens.

Donor Coordination

12. USAID ranked number three in Sri Lanka, behind Japan and
Germany, for bilateral donor-funded disbursements to tsunami-related
programs. In an effort to maximize USG investment and to avoid
overlap, USAID was fully engaged in regular donor coordination.
USAID regularly participated in several types of meetings (i.e.
those that focused on bilateral donors, on all donors, on specific
themes) and in joint field monitoring visits. Meetings were based
on themes (Eastern development, small-scale infrastructure, etc.) as
well as geography (Arugam Bay, Batticaloa, etc.) to identify all
potential areas of collaboration.

13. Further, this regular networking has proven useful in planning
conflict-related responses as we go forward. As USAID shifts focus
toward the East in its new development strategy, it will continue to
be important that donor agencies work collaboratively to identify
opportunities and minimize challenges.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)

14. 14. Responding to the tremendous needs of tsunami-affected
communities encouraged USAID/Sri Lanka to build relationships with
other funders, both corporate and charitable. Following are the
PPPs we have developed under the tsunami programs ($4,915,011): $1
million from the Bush Clinton Foundation for playgrounds; $500,000
from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJJDC) for
playgrounds; $1 million from AmeriCares for a water distribution
system; $1,405,011 from Mellon Foundation for vocational education
commodities; $500,000 from Prudential Insurance Company of America
for vocational education commodities; $100,000 from Chevron-Caltex
for vocational education commodities; and, $410,000 from AJJDC for
the Hikkaduwa vocational training center.


15. The post-tsunami assistance provided by the U.S. Government has
made a tremendous impact, particularly in the areas of livelihoods
and infrastructure, and continues to be deeply appreciated by the
people and government of Sri Lanka. In communities such as
Trincomalee, the capital of the Eastern Province, rebuilt facilities
ranging from a market to a playground, from a bus station to a
library, are an enduring testimonial of the U.S. Government's
support for the people of Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the tsunami.


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