Human Rights Organization Finds Breakdown in Sri Lankan Relief Efforts

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In a White Paper released this week, the International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance has found serious breakdowns in the international relief effort for Sri Lankan victims of the devastating December 26th tsunamis.

In a White Paper released this week, the International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance has found serious breakdowns in the international relief effort for Sri Lankan victims of the devastating December 26th tsunamis.

As relief operations were underway, the Foundation sent a Human Rights Fact-Finding team to Sri Lanka. Their objectives included determining whether there was any substance to reports that millions of dollars donated for tsunami relief was not reaching the victims.

The team met with representatives of national and local governments, international relief organizations, non governmental organizations (NGOs), such as UNICEF, Save the Children, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), local charitable groups, schools, refugee camps, orphanages and individuals in Sri Lanka helping with disaster relief. They also visited 28 refugee camps and spoke to many living there, most of them fishermen put out of work by the tsunamis and their families.

Team members found that voluntary organizations, local community leaders, non-governmental organizations and, at a local level, some government bodies and representatives of international humanitarian organizations are carrying the burden, but that the enormous sums pledged by the international community are not reaching those who most need them.

The White Paper, Destruction and Recovery: A Fact-finding Mission to Sri Lanka, January 22 -- February 11, 2005, reports that "unless action is taken, the goodwill and financial support that flowed freely in the wake of the disaster will be squandered. More importantly, the people who most need help will fail to receive it."

During their visit, the team provided food and medical supplies to residents, mandatory uniforms for 127 school children living in three camps from both Trincomalee and Galle, and a boat that will provide enough income to feed two large families. The Foundation also arranged to cover living expenses, books, clothes and travel expenses for 19 young students who are graduating from school and wish to enter university. Further sponsorship is planned.

The White Paper, which documents the team’s findings in full, is fully illustrated and can be accessed at the Foundation’s website: http://www.humanrightsandtolerance.org.

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