New boats help Malaysia’s fishermen get back to sea
KUALA MUDA KEDAH, Malaysia, 21 March 2005 - Experienced fishermen around the Kedah area of Malaysia, long accustomed to the normal hazards of the sea, recall trembling in fear on the night of 27 December 2004, as they heard shouts of another tsunami approaching their shores - one day after the disastrous waves which devastated countries around the Indian Ocean. Thankfully, the warnings proved false.
The fishermen of this area, Malaysia’s hardest-hit, have had to put any lingering fears behind them. The sea is their main source of income, and they must return to it sooner or later. More than half, however, have not yet been able to do so because their boats were badly damaged or destroyed.
“My boat was completely smashed by the waves, and I could not go out to sea for over two months after the tsunami. I have nine children, aged five to 20. Four are still schooling. Fishing is the only work I know. We're no longer afraid of the sea; the tsunami has come and gone,” said 43-year-old fisherman Jaafar Khamis.
While waiting for aid grants to help him replace his boat, Jaafar collected shellfish, but he was barely able to make ends meet.
For Jaafar, things have taken a turn for the better. On 7 March the UN Country Program in Malaysia, of which UNICEF is part, presented 17 fibreglass fishing boats and new equipment to tsunami-affected fishermen like Jaafar, to help them get back on their feet. The boats and equipment were distributed to those suffering the greatest hardship, according to allocation criteria drawn up with the local Fisheries Department.
The boats will help fishermen generate their own income once again. This in turn will help rebuild local communities.
Jaafar has now brought back his first catch of prawns using his new boat. He says his situation has improved dramatically.
The UN Country Program is helping rebuild the shattered lives of communities in two other areas severely affected by the tsunami, namely Seberang Prai and Balik Pulau, in Malaysia’s state of Penang.
Newsline - Tsunami
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