UN takes first step in rebuilding Sri Lanka's fishing fleet, destroyed by tsunami

Devastated homes on the northern coast of Sri Lanka. Photo: UNHCR/B. Barkle

3 February 2005 – In the first small step in a large-scale initiative to help restore the livelihoods of thousands of Sri Lankan fishermen devastated by December's Indian Ocean tsunami, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today handed over an initial $380,000 consignment of boat repair kits.

"This is the first shot off the starting block of a programme that will develop over the next few months to rebuild the country's battered fishing industry," FAO country representative Pierre Gence said at the hand-over ceremony with Sri Lankan fisheries minister Chandrasena Wijesinghe.

The donation, funded jointly by FAO and the German technical cooperation agency GTZ, represents the start of FAO's $20 million initial response to the tsunami that ravaged more than three quarters of the country's fisheries industry.

As the massive UN-led relief effort moves from the lifesaving dimensions of the immediate emergency response to the tsunami, which killed more than 200,000, injured half a million more and left up to 5 million others in need of basic services, and takes on the longer-term reconstruction phase, donor governments and agencies have channelled aid through FAO for the rehabilitation of the fisheries sector.

The immediate relief project is due to last six months and will then be followed by a longer-term rehabilitation programme. FAO will provide fishing nets and gear, as well as outboard engines, and will repair damaged boats or replace those lost with new ones. This assistance will cover all regions of the country. The north and east in particular, already made vulnerable by civil conflict, were badly hit by the tsunami.

FAO will also provide necessary technical assistance for the re-establishment of ice plants, cold rooms, fish collecting and marketing centres and rehabilitate the fishery harbours and anchorages.

"Our concern is not to reproduce the problems of over-fishing and wastage of the past. Our aim is to help create a new, sustainable fishing industry in close cooperation and coordination with the government and local people," Mr. Gence said.

As of 31 January, the death toll in Sri Lanka – the second-hardest hit country after Indonesia – stood at nearly 31,000 dead with nearly 5,500 listed as missing. More than 234,000 families have been affected by the disaster with over 555,000 people displaced.

In Indonesia's Aceh and Sumatra provinces, which accounted for more than two-thirds of the total death toll, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is in talks with the Government on an emergency school feeding initiative as well as a supplementary feeding programme for pregnant and nursing women and children aged 1 to 5.

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