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Sri Lanka: nets for the mackerel season

01-01-2006 Feature

Many fishermen living on Sri Lanka's coastal areas lost their livelihoods after their boats and equipment were washed away by the tsunami in 2004. Now, some are returning to work with the support of the ICRC.

 

© ICRC Sri Lanka 
 
Sanmugam Veluppillai is a victim of a combination of natural and man-made disasters. 
    An ICRC convoy of trucks stops at a coastal village in East Vadamarachchi in the very north of Sri Lanka. In the sea a dozen new boats are blinking in the sunlight. On the shore, a group of men are dragging in a net while in the shade of the palm trees women and children are busy gathering prawns from another. 

It's an idyllic scene but one that is difficult to associate with the hardships witnessed through decades of conflict and hardship compounded by the tsunami of December 2004.

Seventy-one year old Sanmugam Veluppillai and his family were lucky to survive the giant waves that killed 2,600 people in this region alone. Nevertheless, life since has been tough with the family's four boats destroyed along with all their equipment.

As for fellow villagers, this loss of livelihood was not a new experience. In 1991, Sanmugam saw his house destroyed during the conflict between the Sri Lankan armed forces and rebels belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). His family and many others were displaced inland.

He and other fishermen had to go fishing on lagoons, where the catch was a mere fraction of normal and enough just to be self-sufficient. Only in 2001 were they able to return home. And then, three years later, another disaster came to ruin them. It was a lot to bear for these communities that had suffered so much through years of fighting.

Now, they are receiving help to re-launch their fishing businesses. 

 
© ICRC Sri Lanka 
 
Throughout the north of the island, 1,350 kits are being distributed to the benefit of 6,750 households. 
    The ICRC trucks have come to a stop in front of the Fishermen's Co-operative Societies Union. The organization is donating a variety of fishing nets along with the necessary gear to equip 200 fibreglass boats that provide a living for 1,000 families.

Throughout the north of the island, 1,350 such kits are being distributed to the benefit of 6,750 households.

" We had already received the boat s from other humanitarian organizations, " says Sanmugam, " but until now we lacked the fishing nets that we'll need for the start of the mackerel season in January. "