|Dan Toole inspects school-in-a-box kits|
NEW YORK, 20 January 2005 - Senior UNICEF officials Dan Toole and Charles Lyons have visited Sri Lanka to supervise the distribution of tsunami relief supplies.
Sri Lanka was one of the nations worst hit by December’s tsunami and more than 437,000 people remain homeless. Half of those are still living in temporary camps.
Now that the initial relief effort has passed the focus is on getting children’s lives normalized as quickly as possible.
Ninety five schools were either damaged or destroyed in the catastrophe so UNICEF is concentrating on “back to learning” rather than “back to school.” It has supplied 500 school-in-a-box kits for use by 40,000 children who can continue their studies even if they don’t yet have a formal classroom.
Games and sport are also part of the healing process.
“Kids who’ve come out of a crisis need to have their lives go back to normal. One of the easiest ways to do that is to give them games, to give them soccer balls or, here in Sri Lanka, a cricket bat. These things help kids to play together to talk about what they’ve see. It helps restore the normal part of life that they’ve lost because of the tsunami,” said Dan Toole, Director of the Office of Emergency Programmes.
The generous and speedy response by international donors has saved lives, according to Charles Lyons, President of the US Fund for UNICEF. “It is astonishing that no child had died of preventable causes after three weeks,” he said. “There are no reported deaths of measles, no reported deaths of cholera.”
However he said that although water and sanitation supplies have arrived in Sri Lanka, the need for shelter and clean water remains “absolutely urgent.”
UNICEF has warned that sanitation has become a critical concern because of the high numbers of people living in camps and temporary shelters throughout the Indian Ocean region.
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