Yesterday was the final day of a five day monitoring trip I did to the north of Sri Lanka to measure progress on the role IFRC/SLRCS is playing as implementing with the Indian housing project. (IHP) and to identify ways we can accelerate the recovery operation. I have recorded a typical day on a trip like this.
On Thursday 26 October we visited the Project Office located at the G N Office, at Thananthaiselvapuram, Tellippai DS in Jaffna district where we met the IFRC Project Engineer and the Technical Officers and had a discussion with them.
I visited more than 20 sites in the village nearby where the 1st installment payment had been sent to beneficiary bank accounts some days earlier by the Indian High Commission in Colombo and had discussion with the beneficiaries.
I was accompanied Ms. Dushiyanthi David, Mr. Wahala Bandara, DPO SLRCS and K. Thiruthanigasalam, (Thiru) Monitoring Officer, IFRC. Dushy is head of support services for IFRC is Colombo and I wanted her to become more familiar with the methodology as she has a liaison function with the IHP payment office in Colombo.
At the offce Thiru (centre) and I met Mrs. Shanmugam Pakkiyaledcumy (left), a very poor widow, living alone at Market road. She had not met the beneficiary criteria but was hoping she would qualify in the second round. We took her name and explained what options are open to her.
Next we drove to the village close by at Thananthaiselvapuram and the first beneficiary we visited was Mr. Balasubramanium Mahendran, a person suffering from arthritis and struggling to walk. He had completed the foundation laying ceremony and the workers were very busy on excavation work for the construction of foundations. After the discussion Mr. Balasubramanium (right in the photo) told us that he will complete the construction works within 4 to 5 months. The necessary building materials for the foundation work has been transported to the site.
With the wind rustling the leaves on a Mahogany tree, we walked down a lane to the next housing site, visiting Mr. Nagendran Lagunathan's place. Like many other beneficiaries, the heavy rocks had been dropped 40 metres or so from the house due to muddy roads, so we helped the family to transport some of the rocks from the heap to the site Every little bit helps in these situations. Excavation for foundation has commenced in this site. Below Thiru and I talk to the family.
Here Thiru explains the finer points of the IHP to Mr and Mrs.Nagendran Lagunathan.
Closeby we met another beneficiary Mr. Kanagasabai Murugaiyah, a 76 year old man in poor health living with his wife alone and had a discussion with him about his situation and the construction works of his house. After the discussion he said they felt they could finish it is 5 - 6 months..
We called on Mr. Balasuntharam Sivakumar site and found workers, including the the owner, very busy removing the stump of a big tree from the site enable construction work to start. The beneficiary has told us that due to the heavy rain experienced in the area, he could not start the foundation work. We visited many other sites and were heartened to see such industrious and committed people.
Also visited to Mr.and Mrs. Ponnuthurai Sriskandarajahs (photo above) place and had a chat with them about the problems they face and advised on the construction of his house. He was reasonably confident he would finish the houses in 5 months.
As we were walking back to the road we met two elderly women who were returning from putting their case across to grievance committee meeting. We stopped and talked about the situation and why they had not been selected them for the housing project. As with all people we met on our two hour walk through this village, whether they had been selected or not, there was a quiet dignity and acceptance in their manner.
What is depressing is the remnants of houses, places of worship and factories destroyed in the 30 year long conflict. Such wanton destruction casts a pall over reconstruction efforts.
During this visit I called Anurag Srivastava at the Indian High Commission to give him feedback on progress and discussed a few issues that I needed advice on. As Vasanta Kumar Government Agent in Jaffna told us later in the day, we have to work continuously to improce coordination and cooperation.
Some of the pathways between houses are pleasant under the mid-day sun and you see many trees providing shade, fruits and timber. In a year these villages will be back to normal.
As we passed through Jaffna about 1.30 pm, we couldn't resist a stop at Rio icecream parlour and here Thiru (l) and Wahala enjoy a well deserved ice cream.
At 2.30pm we participated in an IHP meeting chaired by the Government Agent with all Jaffna DS in attendance, the UN Habitat, IFRC and SLRCS to discuss progress and methodology.
On the way back to Vavuniya we stopped at the A9 junction with Thenmarachchi to pick up new files from one of our Red Cross Engineers. I say each file is like a "Ratnapura Sapphire' as it brings a jewel to every selected family, that gift called 'a house.' At the junction is a sign giving detail of the Indian housing project. Below.
A close up of our sign boards.