33 year old Kobal Balasubromanigam has been living in a temporary welfare centre since the December 26 tsunami destroyed his home and his village in the north eastern part of the country.
The welfare centres set up by local authorities are located in public buildings such as schools or places of worship. Although they provide food and basic household items, four to eight families may be living together in a single room. In addition, the centres are often located as far as 20 kilometres from their former villages.
Pending reconstruction, local authorities are now establishing a number of transit camps on public lands closer to peoples'former homes. Each family will have its own tent and the camps will provide proper hygiene facilities such as clean water, showers, washing areas and latrines. Each family will be able to cook its own meals in community kitchens installed in the camps.
The ICRC is also providing tents in many of these camps which will each contain anything from 25 to 700 families. Throughout Sri Lanka, the ICRC has already supplied over 2,000 tents and will deliver an additional 3,000. Residents of the welfare centres have been employed to set up the tents, providing them with an income for their families.
Kobal Balasubromanigam says the new transit camps will bring him back closer to the sea and he hopes he will be able to resume his work as a fisherman. The tents will also provide each family with a measure of privacy they do not have in the welfare centres.
Although he, his wife and his two children survived the tsunami, he lost his home as well as his boat and the fishing nets that ensured his livelihood. " Maybe we can share equipment amongst the villagers, " he says, " or we can find other jobs to be able to start over again. "
He says he does not know when he will be able to resume a normal life. " In 1996 we lost everything when we had to flee because of the fighting, " he says. " It is difficult to imagine how we are going to be able to do it all again. "