Visiting the UMCOR NGO field office in Sri Lanka in late July, it was inspiring to experience the work of this amazing team of national and ex-patriot staff. The office was opened following the tsunami and has grown into one of UMCOR’s largest as it has engaged in rebuilding homes and restoring livelihoods for thousands of survivors who lost homes, family members and the means to make a living. As this work comes to a close, the need and likelihood for UMCOR to remain in the country continues. The end of the recent war with the Tamil LTTE forces challenges the government with the need to rebuild destroyed and damaged infrastructure, help internally displace people return to their communities and manage the refugee camps that are now housing almost 300,000 people.
One such camp is located at Menik Farms where 230,000 people are now living. One of the big challenges facing a suddenly formed “city” of such tremendous size is sanitation. Keeping latrines cleaned out and in service is a daily challenge. Recently UMCOR donated two large capacity Gully Suckers to the Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, Rishad Bathiudeen for use at Menik Farms. The Gully Sucker, as it is called locally, is a familiar sight to many of us who have lived in rural areas where septic tanks are the norm. It is an interesting name and I expect many of you will remember your own favorite name for such a vehicle. Without it, in a refugee camp, cholera and other related diseases would soon likely become a mammoth challenge.
Clean water and adequate sanitation are important keys to good health. These daily necessities are at the top of the agenda for places where UMCOR is at work all around the world.
By Sam Dixon, Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR