| Asia did it again! The world was wrapped with attention on 26 December last year as the greatest natural calamity of the century (or at least in recent history) played out before its very eyes. The numbers of the dead kept rising every hour, like a crazy cricket score, except this score included many more zeros.
Social welfare organisations, NGOs, and with caution I say, even governments, have done much six months down the line to sustain and uplift the survivors of the tsunami tragedy, but serious violations of fundamental rights and social injustices to the point of mass outrage are no doubt occurring in every tsunami-hit nation.
Children are being abducted in the north and some parts of the south of Sri Lanka (as per UNICEF reports), human rights organisations are reporting that women in displaced camps are being raped and abused, communal coexistence is walking a tight rope everywhere in the country.
Adding insult to injury, there are international donors cashing in on the 'tsunami relief effort' as though it were the latest fad. Maybe it is. One international dignitary for example upon a recent visit to tsunami-devastated parts of Sri Lanka, offered to buy and distribute several perches of land each (well below the Lankan statutory requirement for construction of a house). Media reports claimed that some of the would-be beneficiaries living in transitional shelter camps had blatantly rejected this offer, saying that this was not a fair deal.
Some city folk burn with shame at the ungrateful attitude of their fellow Sri Lankans. But the question is: when one has been at the receiving end of one of the country's greatest tragedy's, should one not in fact be treated with more humanity and respect? Have not tsunami victims, I prefer the classification of 'tsunami-survivors', rather qualified for greater sensitivity and understanding in terms of fulfilling their basic needs such as permanent shelter - the most pressing need of the hour?
Charity organisations, humanitarian aid institutions, governments, donors and philanthropists need to strike out the option they serve up to these tragedy-survivors of 'putting up with' or accepting sub-standard, step-motherly treatment when it comes to having their needs met. Because if we do that, that may be the greatest insult and injury done to these thousands of our fellow citizens and fellow-South Asians. Instead, let's give them the treatment, kindness and quality of aid they truly deserve. Ways can be found around seemingly practical limitations. The answer would be to view the problem as a people-centred one instead of an issue-centred one.
Here's to Asia's rapid recovery!
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Harini Dias Bandaranayake
Harini Dias Bandaranayake is a social/relief worker and coordinates capacity building for the youth in South Asia to work towards regional peace building and conflict resolution and to advocate and address the various social, political, economic and environmental issues homogenous to South Asia.
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