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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

UNICEF restores water and sanitation in southern Sri Lanka

© UNICEF Sri Lanka/2005/Ireland
A mother washes at one of the newly installed water tanks to service families currently living in a makeshift camp in Galle district.

GALLE, Sri Lanka, 10 March 2005 - The sound of children playing during recess outside C.W.W. Kannangara College in Sri Lanka’s Galle district seems miraculous given the devastation wrought by the tsunami only three months ago. With only 30 metres separating the school’s front gate from the seashore, the force of the waves washed away classrooms and flooded the building.

Despite the extensive damage, the school's principal, Premalal Pathirana, managed to reopen his school on January 10 – the regular starting date for children after the holidays. Pathirana credits UNICEF with helping to make that happen - not only through the provision of school supplies, uniforms and furniture -  but above all, by creating a safe and hygienic environment for children.  

Of the 336 children attending Kannangara school, 89 lost their homes in the tsunami. Many students are now living with relatives, others are living in tents - either where their houses used to stand or in nearby transit camps. Working with the local government water board, UNICEF and its partners have installed 350 large water tanks throughout Galle, providing clean water to the thousands of people living in these camps and in the surrounding communities.

© UNICEF Sri Lanka/2005/Ireland
A baby gets a bath at a safe water point installed in the midst of destroyed homes along the seashore in southern Sri Lanka’s Galle district.

Dr. Harish Yakandawela is UNICEF's project officer coordinating water and sanitation work in Galle.  “Before December 26, the city of Galle had a fairly good water and sanitation infrastructure in place,” said Yakandawela. “But the force of the disaster and flooding of sea water destroyed pipes, cutting off the water supply and burying toilets under the rubble."

Unsafe water and poor sanitation could have triggered a second disaster with the spread of disease. But UNICEF- with the help of the Water Supply and Drainage Board, non-governmental organizations and the United States Army - restored safe conditions, first by bringing in huge supplies of clean water, and then, by installing water tanks and repairing damaged pipelines.  Water and sanitation teams also brought temporary latrines to relief camps and later reconstructed toilet facilities in camps and throughout the city.

UNICEF's ultimate goal is to both expand and improve pre-Tsunami infrastructures, so that every child has access to sanitary living conditions.




March 2005:
Ted Chaiban UNICEF Representative in Sri Lanka discusses how the money donated to UNICEF is being spent to help children.

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