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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Sri Lanka: Starting over after the tsunami – one young man’s story

© UNICEF video
Haj Mohamad, 14, lost his grandmother, his brother, and a sister to the tsunami.

By Haj Mohamed

Haj Mohamed’s life changed dramatically when the tsunami waves struck his village. Below is his account of the day his world was turned upside down, and how his family is coping one year on.

KINNIYA, Sri Lanka, December 2005 – “My name is Mohamed. I’m 14 and I live in Kinniya in Sri Lanka. In the morning I get up and go to the local school. My best subject is health science, and I want to study biology and become a doctor. After I finish school, I usually play with my friends. I like cricket best and we play near my home. Then at about 5 o’clock, I get changed and help my father with our crops.

“Since the tsunami, it’s how we support ourselves, and we’ve hired a pump to help with the watering. The water is only good for the crops. For drinking water we still rely on the water tankers. But we have to walk a long way, because the tanks are 200 metres back from the beach.


© UNICEF Sri Lanka/2005/Posings
Mohamad and his sister gathering water.

“In our house we used to have a few rooms, but only the foundations are left. When the tsunami happened, I tried to carry my grandmother away from the waters, but she was swept away and died. My sister also died. And my elder brother, who was up at the mosque trying to get people to safety there. He was clinging to a tree, but was washed away by the third wave. I managed to survive by climbing up onto the toilet.  The water came up to my knees and the whole thing was shaking, but it stayed up… and I survived.

“My father tells us that when he first came to this land he and my mum lived in a little hut, but by working hard over the years he got the money to build a house.  Now we’re back in a hut again.

“I think it’s up to me and my sister to make things better. If we can do well at school and get good jobs, then maybe we can get back some of the prosperity we had before.”









Haj Mohamed, 14, talks about how he and his family have had to rebuild their lives following the devastation caused by the tsunami.

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One 14-year-old boy's story of surviving – against the odds – during and after the tsunami. Listen to his story:

Official updates

Children and the Tsunami, A Year On:
A Draft UNICEF Summary of What Worked [PDF]

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