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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Bellamy gets a first-hand look at the plight of the children

© UNICEF/HQ05-0016/Noorani
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy speaks to a girl at a crisis centre for orphans in the town of Kilinochchi
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, 3 January 2005 – UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy is in Sri Lanka getting a first-hand look at the plight of tsunami survivors, especially women and children.

Ms. Bellamy arrived in Colombo on Sunday morning and immediately boarded a government helicopter for the hardest-hit regions in eastern Sri Lanka. From the air, Ms. Bellamy was able to see beachfronts where whole communities had been destroyed. She also toured around neighbourhoods that were completely ruined by the tidal waves.

© UNICEF/HQ05-0015/Noorani
Ms. Bellamy speaks to a shy girl at a welfare centre that has become a temporary shelter for people displaced by the tsunami, in the town of Mullaitivu
"I met lots of parents who had lost their children, and lots of children who had lost their parents," said Ms. Bellamy. "But by far the most heart-wrenching moment was watching those families walking the beach, waiting for the bodies of their children to wash ashore."

The devastating tsunamis that struck south Asia on December 26 have left over 29,900 dead and 5,744 people missing in Sri Lanka. Over 861,000 survivors are living in 781 temporary shelters. The wide stretch of the country’s eastern coastline - from Jaffna in the north to the popular tourist beaches in the south - has been devastated.

A UNICEF-chartered cargo plane has brought essential life-saving supplies for Sri Lankan children and their families. The shipment includes 15 emergency health kits sufficient to cover the health needs of 150,000 people for three months, 150,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts (ORS) to combat diarrhea and 20 tents. School-in-a-box kits and recreation kits were also included in the shipment, to help ensure that children can return to their studies as quickly as possible and regain a sense of normality.

During the past weekend,  flash floods caused by torrential rains have crippled relief work in Eastern Sri Lanka. Another 14,000 people were reported missing and at least 15 camps for displaced people were flooded by the heavy rains.

To save vulnerable chidlren from waterborne diseases, UNICEF has dispatched 7,000 litres of water to Ampara and 7,000 litres to Mullaitivu. An estimated 4,000 temporary latrines have been distributed in Trincomalee district.

UNICEF and its partners are also responding to the psychosocial aspects of the disaster. There has been an unprecedented coordination effort made by UNICEF in Jaffna district. Staff have been trained in trauma counselling for emergencies and have been sent to all camps. As a large amount of the children are unaccompanied by their parents, UNICEF also helps identify and prevent sexual abuse of these children.

Ms. Bellamy is due to meet President Chandrika Kumaratunga late Monday before heading off to Indonesia.




3 January 2005: UNICEF Director sees devastation in Sri Lanka

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27 December: UNICEF Communication Officer Martin Dawes talks about the current situation in Sri Lanka after the country was devastated by tsunamis

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