Sunday, February 27, 2005

Update 4


Response to Crisis phase has been a big challenge; Also looking at the way ahead



The UELCI and its implementing partners have got into the action of relief distribution and have also entered the second stage of the crisis phase, which is the construction of temporary shelters. The Central and State governments continue to announce several schemes and programmes for the affected. What is however not clear is the Government’s position on the issue of return to livelihood.
Interactions in several affected villages in Cuddalore at the time for the distribution reveal that there is a serious concern in the fishing community. Some do express fear of the sea, but many do say that they are willing to go back to the sea for fishing. One of the categorical affirmations is that, ‘they do not see themselves changing their vocation and livelihood due to this tragedy’. Therefore there is a change of thinking. Some of the fisher folk movements and groups are demanding that the Government come-up with a statement to endorse the return to fish eating. “Whom do we sell it to? “quips one of them. In the lack of scientific analysis and explanations, if the fish, when eaten now after the Tsunami is safe or otherwise, there is a lot of frustration showing in the villages. Gradually the media is reporting stories from the Government Labs and labs from Australia. A report today, claims that no virus does has affected the marine life after the Tsunami. This opens up a new beginning altogether. Many want their lives and livelihoods to be restored as soon as possible. They do not see themselves at the mercy of the government and aid for too long.
The psychosocial interactions have also revealed that there is still a very high level of trauma. Sleeplessness and fear seem to be the key health challenges.
The UELCI continues in its relief measures at Nagercoil, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Tranquebar and Bapatla.
Nagercoil and Kanyakumari Operations
The following is the Nagercoil and Kanyakumari operations.
Kanyakuamri was one of the most affected parts in south India by TSUNAMI last month 26th December where more than 1750 lost their lives in both Kanniyakumari and Nagercoil. More than 40,000 thousand people are homeless and they have been given temporary shelters at different government and Roman Catholic church camp centers. The UELCI has distributed relief materials to communities in the following villages who were living in two major camps.
The distribution covered the communities from the following villages: Chinna Muttam, Kovalam, Keelamanakudi, Melamanakudi, Annai Nagar, Pallam,Pillai, Thoppu, Kadiapattinam, Pudhur, Kottilpadi, Kolachel, Manakadu, Kodimunnai and Innayam
At Nagercoil, the staff team of UELCI had a planning meeting with the IELC treasurer, Mr.Gnana Jothi, Treasurer, IELC and Rev.Muthu Raj, President, IELC Nagercoil Synod, Rev.Davidson, Vice-President, IELC Nagercoil Synod and with some of the local IELC pastors. The team collected the data of the most affected areas in the whole of Kanyakumari Districts. This included the details regarding deaths, homeless, etc. After the need was identified by the local communities, medical assistance was rendered with the help of a local hospital. People were treated for injuries and other ailments.
The UELCI/SWAP team approached Mr.Ramesh Chand Meena, Collector, Kanniyakumari District for permission and for allocation of villages for distributing relief materials to the affected victims. Two elected representatives of the communities from the church assisted in the entire process. Finally on the advice of the Collector, through the locally elected representatives permission to distribute relief materials to the selected camps was granted.
Two different camps were chosen for distribution at Manakudi and Kolachel and the distribution was done in the presence of the IELC church leaders, political leaders and local camp supervisors. The distributed materials included Utensils, Dress materials [sarees & dothis], Medical support & Water.
225 packages of Relief materials were distributed in the Nagercoil affected part and 200 were distributed to the people affected in different parts of Kanyakumari. Also, 55 relief materials were distributed to the patients admitted in different hospitals affected by tsunami.
Medical support was also provided to some of the selected hospitals where Tsunami affected people are given free treatment. The assistance was given through James, Gnanamani , Abdul Kadhar, Ezhilarasi & Irudhayam Hospitals and clinics.
Water packets were also distributed in the campsites at Kolachel, Kottilpadu, Kelmanakudi, Pillai Thoppu, Pallam areas and also in hospitals at Kolachel, Manakadu and Pudur.
The communities have also expressed their future needs by identifying the following as their priorities; Permanent Shelter, Boat & nets to continue their livelihood, uniforms and school note books to the children and Medical Camps.

Cuddalore Operations
After being allocated four villages in the Cuddalore area, the UELCI began the vital process of collecting family data. Every family was considered and documented. Several volunteers from the Arcot Lutheran Church and from the communities helped the survey and analysis methodology. Each family was also given a family card as recognized and endorsed by the local panchayat leaders. This helped community participation. The families’ gathered at the given time and the relief articles were distributed with the help of volunteers, supervised by the village leaders. The partners from the Canadian Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran World Relief, Norwegian Church Aid, leaders of the Arcot Lutheran Church and representatives and staff from the UELCI were also present at all the distribution centers. A senior writer Kelly J. Bauer has been accompanying the UELCI team.
The distribution took place in Ayyampettai, Nanjallingam Pettai, Thammanam Pettai and Chitra Pettai. Relief articles like sarees, dhotis, cooking utensils, bed sheets and others were part of the relief kit. The Bishop Gideon Devenesan at the ACT/UELCI Tsunami Disaster Relief Office inaugurated the distribution at Cuddalore. The distribution process in one village had to be postponed due to the death of an adult in the village who died after a massive heart attack, which may have been caused due to severe stress and other reasons as well.
The Cuddalore Government secretariat has been very actively organizing and coordinating NGO activity and responses in the area. At the recent NGO coordination committee meeting the Government has now encouraged the NGOs to enter the second stage of the crisis phase and put up temporary shelters for the families to move into from the make shift camps. The Collector and the special Relief Commissioner, it is understood want this to be complete before the Tamil cultural festival called Pongal, which is the Tamil harvest festival.
The UELCI has already begun the stage of planning to execute the construction of the temporary shelters. It is also perceived that this will also quicken the process of rehabilitation. Rev. Dr. Augustine Jeyakumar from the UELCI has been leading the Cuddalore operations.
Health operations by the National Lutheran Health and Medical Board (NLHMB) of the UELCI
The National Lutheran Health and Medical Board of the UELCI along with its medical partners such as the CBM, Christian Medical Hospital and College, Ludhiana and the Lutheran Bethesda Hospital, Ambur have set up a makeshift medical facility at the Bishop Peter Teacher’s Training College at Devanampattinam, Cuddalore. This medical facility currently has both inpatient and outpatient facility. About three specialist doctors, nurses and medical workers are working round the clock in providing medical attention. The common outpatient complaints have been fatigue, sleeplessness, stress related problems, etc. Some cases of food poisoning and dysentery have also been reported. Some, the doctors said many need tranquilizers to reduce tension and stress. The NLHMB and its partners are also planning to move to the send stage of the crisis phase into psyco-social and trauma counseling into the communities. They have begun the TOT process to enable community training through community leaders and volunteers. Dr. K.M. Shyamprasad, Directed of the NLHMB and Dr. John Abraham, Medical Superintendent are currently proving leadership. More doctors and medical personnel are expected to joing the teams.
The Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church, TELC is also setting up a similar medical facility at the Tranquebar Spiritual Center with the assistance of the TELC Joseph’s Ophthalmic Hospital and Research Centre, Tiruchirapalli. This center will be inaugurated on the 11th of January to address the health issues in the area.
In the mean time the Church Women’s Centre at the Gurukul campus, Chennai wears a look of disaster relief center. Articles are being downloaded, packed, labeled and reloaded for the distribution at Tranquebar and Nagapattinam on 12th January.
Lutheran World Service-India, Operations
ACT partners UELCI and LWSI are working together to alleviate the suffering of people who have lost all in the tsunami disaster that devastated parts of South India on 26 December 2004.As of now, there is no shortage of food as both government and non-government agencies are providing it to the people of devastated areas. So UELCI and LWSI do not consider it a pressing need which requires our intervention.
Immediately after getting news of the disaster, Lutheran World Service – India was in contact with UELCI to offer them its support for the initial stages of the crisis relief. Since Lutheran churches are spread throughout the entire area, LWSI was glad to see that they were able to respond immediately to the initial needs. LWSI is pleased that UELCI staff have been representing LWSI as well as themselves in their meetings with government and district officials.
Mr K G Mathaikutty, LWS(I) Programme Director (Emergency), visited the area from 30 December, and he and Rev. Chandran Paul Martin, Executive Secretary, UELCI, held discussions with church leaders, government officials and other NGOs, especially CASA, regarding the best plan for relief and rehabilitation response in disaster-hit Tamil Nadu. Together they prepared the first appeal to ACT. LWS(I) Director, Mr Howard Jost, also went to Chennai and held consultations on 3 January with UELCI and CASA regarding our action plan. Together with UELCI leadership, LWSI sent the revised appeal to ACT and other donors.
An LWS(I) senior staff with extensive experience in previous disasters, including the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, has established his base in Cuddalore and with the help of 4 other staff and 3 volunteers provided by the Arcot Lutheran Church, has begun the process of getting villages assigned to LWSI by government officials and carrying out need assessment.
In spite of the competition among NGOs to be assigned villages in which to work, LWSI has been allocated 4 villages in Cuddalore and 3 villages in Pondicherry. More villages are being identified and will be granted to LWSI in both districts. Negotiations are in progress with church leaders and district authorities to achieve this. Right now, assessment is underway in the assigned villages as to the most needy families and their immediate needs. Once the appraisal is complete, tokens would be given to them by LWSI and relief materials will be distributed.
Our coordination and networking has been very affective. Two Co-ordination meetings have already taken place among ACT-India members and all its implementing agencies. The team leaders have established frequent sharing of information and a working relationship in the fields. The ACT partners and their field staff regularly meet for coordination. All the UELCI member churches in this operations vis-à-vis the TELC, IELC, ALC and AELC have been actively participating in our operations. The volunteers have been enlisted from the churches. This experience in the churches participation in disaster relief has given the church a new faith dimension. Congregations have been activated.
Several partner agencies and churches including the Norwegian Church Aid, Dan Church Aid, LWR, CLWR and mission agencies like the ELM, LMW, ELCA have extended their solidarity through support in this crisis phase. Some journalists and specialists are already assisting us in out operations.
Our implementing partners like IRDWSI and the NLHMB will continue to update us on their operations. This will also be shared in this news updates.