Businesses urged to help Sri Lanka

ORGANISATIONS from across Suffolk are today being urged to help a tsunami-ravaged area of Sri Lanka recover.The Matara region, on the southern tip of the country, needs expert assistance to help it recover after the giant wave - and to develop the area in the future.

ORGANISATIONS from across Suffolk are today being urged to help a tsunami-ravaged area of Sri Lanka recover.

The Matara region, on the southern tip of the country, needs expert assistance to help it recover after the giant wave - and to develop the area in the future.

Now a consortium of Suffolk organisations, headed by the county council is hoping to set up links to the region to help its development plans.

Money is not the main problem - the Sri Lankan government and the World Bank has funds available in the wake of the overwhelming global appeal after Boxing Day's tragedy - but there are serious skills shortages.

And while local government in Matara has ambitious plans to develop the area over the next 25 years, it does not have the resources to put these plans into action.

A meeting of the Suffolk consortium on Thursday heard from former fire chief Malcolm Alcock and council logistics expert Mike Young who have just returned from a fact-finding mission to the country.

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Mr Alcock told the meeting that there were development challenges in the region even before the tsunami struck.

The pair found that immediate aid issues had been addressed but reconstruction would be a long-term issue.

Many people were living in wooden sheds, or even in tents, and there was a desperate need to rebuild homes.

Mr Alcock said: “The labour is there, but the people need to be trained. Where people from this area could help is going over for a week or two and teaching local people basic skills so they can then pass on those skills for others.

“You don't need high-tech solutions. You don't need a JCB to dig a trench, there are 100 people who can dig a trench - if they know what they're doing.”

The consortium hopes to send people out to Matara to help with the reconstruction projects within the next few months, so a relationship between Suffolk and the area can be established before the first anniversary of the disaster at Christmas.

TSUNAMI FUNDING FACTFILE

More than £350 million was donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

The fund was closed in February this year.

Funding priorities in the next few years include: Providing appropriate permanent housing.

Support for children and other vulnerable groups.

Early warning networks and preparedness training

Re-establishing schools and clinics

Advocacy with Government and the United Nations to ensure pledges are delivered and issues relating to land, trade and the environment are addressed.

Information source - DEC

www.tsunami.dec.org.uk