Sunday, February 27, 2005

Update 3

Churches engaged in relief Measures: Aid pouring in

A week after the earthquake triggered tsunami tidal waves that hit the southern coast of Indian sub-continent aid from several quarters is pouring in. The worst affected being the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. For the survivals, the sea is a distant dream. The fisher folk are still uncertain whether they go back into the sea to restore their livelihood and reconstruct their lives. There are stories about the fisherman attempting to go into the sea and returning after a few steps with the boat. Therefore, the hope for reconstructions of their own lives may not be a distant dream after all. Several fishermen have been preparing to go back into the sea.

The Government continues to maintain the official report on the death toll of the disaster. The Government reports 9,479 as the official death toll with Tamilnadu alone accounting for 7814 (Nagapattinam along accounting for 6000 deaths), Kerala with 166, A.P. with 106, Pondicherry with 575 and the Andaman and Nicobar with 818. More than 10,000 people are still reported as missing or untraced. Both the Central and State governments have launched massive relief operations and in almost in all instances are working with the NGOs.

The non-governmental organizations and the churches are now engaged in the second stage of the crisis face. Several of the feeding progrmmes have been discontinued and distribution of old clothes has been rejected. According to Government sources the epidemic is under control. However, there is several thousands, it has been reported have been affected by the epidemic. The major problems being diarrhea, cholera and dehydration. Problems such as gastroenteritis, respirator infections and depression are also expected. Several children are in need of pediatric attention and some adults to be treated for major injuries. The Government has appointed a Relief Commissioner at the Chennai secretariat who is currently involved in coordinating the relief work of the Government as well as coordinating voluntary work

The UELCI has dispatched four teams for relief work. Miss Vidhya Rani, Women’s Secretary of the UELCI reporting from Tranquebar describes the situation as depressing and uneasy calm. She and her team had visited Velipalayam, Kesavapalayam, Akraipatti and other small villages in Tranquebar. The team has mobilized the young people in the villages in cleaning and disinfecting the surrounding. The team has already identified more than 1500 families for immediate relief measures. The visits were made in close cooperation with Pastors, Social Workers and other Church leaders as deputed by the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church. According to the need as identified by the community kerosene stoves, metal trunk boxes, cooking vessels, education kits including school bags and cooking utensils will be distributed in a few days. Request appeals from the area have also come for temporary shelter as well as for pakka housing in the rehabilitation phase. The need for the supply of drinking water until the restoration of the regular drinking water. Rt. Rev. Dr. T. Aruldoss has been closely working with the UELCI team in the allocation of villages.

The team led by Rev. Dr. Augustine Jeyakumar, Director, Division of Social Action has been working in and around the Cuddalore area which is the third most affected area in the disaster. The team has already met with the Collector of Cuddalore who in turn had allotted Koilpettai, Thanjavalli and Trichopuram with 500 families for the UELCI to be engaged in. The church volunteers have already been recruited under the able leadership of Rt.Rev. Gideon Devanesan, Bishop, ALC. The family cards are now being distributed for identification and the distribution of relief materials will begin in the next few days.

The third team led by Dr. Raja Gerald,Youth Secretary, UELCI has been touring the Nagercoil and Kanyakumari area which is the second most affected area. They have identified Melamanakudi, Keelamanakudi, Colachel and Kottilpadu as the most affected in the region. It has been reported more than 1000 people have lost their lives and almost 50,000 people (10,325 families) are being kept in camps. According to Government reports more than 6000 families in this area have become homeless. Almost 23 families from the India Evangelical Lutheran Church congregations have also been seriously affected in the disaster. After the visitation and discussions with the communities utensils, blankets, clothing, drinking water and milk powder for babies will be distributed for relief items the communities have identified the distribution of uniforms and notebooks for school children, permanent houses and the supply of boats and net as long-term rehabilitation intervention. The IELC Treasurer Gnana Jyothi has been accompanying the visiting team. They have already met the local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Ms Austine for discussion relating to relief work.

Another team is being dispatched to Chirala in Andhra Pradesh to meet with the President of Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church to plan for relief programmes immediately. The AELC has been maintaining feeding programmes in five centers in the region.

The UELCI has in the meantime, has sent its joint appeal application (UELCI and LWS (I) for relief and rehabilitation to the ACT International Geneva. In its proposal it seeks intervention in three phases i.e., crisis, post-crisis and rehabilitation. It has also identified among other things an intensive comprehensive medical and health engagement including pshycho-social counseling. It will work and implement its programmes through its partners and other programme units such as Lutheran World Service (India), Calcutta, NLHMB, IRDWSI and SWAP. Several teams from LWS (I), NLHMB, IRDWSI and others have already visited the affected areas.

Messages of solidarity and support have come in from several churches including the Lutheran World Federation whose General Secretary Rev.Dr. Ishmael Noko who has expressed his deep sorrow and solidarity. The Christian Conference of Asia, the ELCA, the ELM, the Church of Sweden Mission, Danmission, Fin Church Aid, Norwegian Church Aid and several others have expressed their solidarity and support.

The Indian partners of Action of Churches Together (ACT) have already met twice for intense cooperation and coordination. At its last meeting on the 3rd of January the Indian ACT partners have agreed to launch a joint website. The UELCI is setting up the TSUNAMI DISASTER RELIEF INFORMATION CENTRE at the Martin Luther Bhavan for effective information sharing. The Centre will also document activities of all the partners working in this disaster. The CASA, LWS (I) and the UELCI are three ACT partners in India. Mr. Mathai Kutty, Emergency Officer, LWS(I) and several international partners have already visited the areas.