Rebuilding after an emergency of any size presents challenges. But the situation in Sri Lanka has made the work even more demanding for both partners and the Christian Aid staff based there.
When the waves reached Sri Lanka, they battered a coastline already ravaged by 25 years of conflict.
An initial peace between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) following the tsunami was short lived. Both parties increasingly used aid as a bargaining tool to gain power in the affected areas, leaving a peace agreement signed in 2002 in tatters and the country back in a civil war in all but name.
We have been supporting 15 partners in Sri Lanka over the last three years who have been working with people affected by both the tsunami and the conflict. While other agencies have been forced to leave, the strength of Christian Aid’s partnership approach has allowed us to continue working.
Vimaladevi, 38, is a field worker for Thadaham, one of our partners in the east of the island. She joined the organisation 20 years ago after her brothers were killed in crossfire.
The organisation was set up to work with people affected by the conflict, but since the tsunami she has been supporting families torn apart by the both natural and manmade disasters.
‘I counsel families and help set up livelihoods groups so that they can become financially secure,’ she explains.
‘I want to be a mother, a sister, a daughter to these people and help them avoid the issues that I have gone through. I want to see change and make a difference.’
No matter how well partners understand the local situation, or how hard they work to rebuild damaged houses, they can only do so much when tens of thousands of people are forced to leave their homes by manmade conflict.
Thadaham, like our other partners in the area, aims to foster a lasting peace between disparate communities.
They are not just rebuilding houses, but entire communities in the areas affected by the tsunami, so that people recently displaced by the conflict do not go without.
Christian Aid will spend a further £2 million in Sri Lanka over the next two years to continue supporting peace building between the Muslim, Sinhalese and Tamil communities as well as preparing communities for future disasters and raising awareness of HIV issues.