Tsunami in Sri Lanka Worsens Pre-Existing Crisis

Action Against Hunger Intensifies Local Aid Efforts

When the tsunami of December 26 hit Sri Lanka with 50-foot waves traveling more than 1.5 miles inland, the country was already reeling from floods two weeks earlier. Over a period of 10 days, floods had destroyed thousands of homes and half the local paddy fields, slashing January's projected food harvest by 75% and leaving 61,000 Sri Lankans affected.

"An estimated 225,000 Sri Lankans who have survived both disasters will be left homeless and at risk," said Guillaume Kopp, country director in Sri Lanka for Action Against Hunger / Action Contre la Faim (ACF), a non-profit, not-governmental, non-religious relief organization.

"The immediate challenge," Kopp said, "is to prevent cholera and other water-borne diseases, because the devastation has polluted water supplies. Clean, disease-free water is essential for drinking, cooking and washing."

A planeload of water pumps, tanks and purification equipment arrived on Tuesday sent by Action Against Hunger, and more deliveries are scheduled for next week. These will supply additional water and sanitation equipment as well as 10 tons of high-nutrition biscuits that will provide enriched nourishment to beneficiaries.

In addition, Action Against Hunger's team is currently working to forestall the spread of disease by digging latrines and by delivering bodies to hospitals and morgues for identification and burial.

Action Against Hunger has been working in Sri Lanka since 1997 and has a 75-member team in place, which will be increased by nearly a dozen specialists who will arrive early next week. The team will focus not only on immediate relief from hunger and disease but also on restoring Sri Lanka's self-sustainable sources of food and water.

Meanwhile, Action Against Hunger personnel are assessing needs in other parts of Sri Lanka as well as in Indonesia to gear up additional relief programs.

Anyone wishing to contribute to Action Against Hunger's efforts is urged to send money only. Food and clothing can't be used. First, the sophisticated materials and equipment that Action Against Hunger distributes are designed specifically to provide relief in emergency situations. Second, shipping food and clothes from the United States is very expensive. Action Against Hunger believes that the money is better spent in Sri Lanka to help revive and stimulate the country's local commerce.

To make a tax-deductible contribution, please visit Action Against Hunger's website at www.actionagainsthunger.org or send a check made out to Action Against Hunger, 247 West 37th Street, 10th floor, New York, New York 10018