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January 07, 1005
The situation (07/01/2005)

Orphaned Children and Adoptions and Counseling
Please see the government policy, which we are told has been posted at Our understanding is that orphaned children are being cared for in government-run shelters; many experienced child-care organizations are on the spot working with official agencies; and the government has in principle adopted some of the principles brought forth by NGOs that in-community care should be encouraged, as opposed to a rush to adopt from outside the community. But please read the document and draw your own conclusions, as Bhoomika is not an expert in this matter. We also understand that UNICEF/UNDP may have taken overall responsibility for some of the work like counseling (unverified).

We understand that the government has already issued new text books, and that other groups are being encouraged to supply school bags, water bottles, etc. Many schools will open after Pongal (Jan 13-14), which also means that displaced people housed in schools and marriage halls will have to be provided temporary shelters very very soon.

Highest priority--Interim Shelters
NGOs and Government officials appear to be moving along the principles stated in the Interim Shelter Policy Recommendation submitted to the government yesterday (e.g. casurina/thatch construction, community participates in construction, NGOs oversee the work, etc.--see Bhoomika website for that document, if you have not seen it). As yet, there is no official T.N. Government policy on interim shelters, however, efforts are already underway to map our NGO-DONOR partnerships to "take responsibility" village by village, in anticipation of a formal G.O. soon. Assignments are being put up and there seem to be more than adequate interest by various agencies to cover all the affected villages in the Nagai area. The next step might be to hook up these partnerships with corporates who may wish to partner in shelter reconstruction. The consensus, as we mentioned in our January 5th report, is to move away from encouraging the concept of 'adopting' villages, to encouraging partnerships with community groups. Given the great sense of urgency, and to preclude other parties--who do not subscribe to the recommended approach--rushing into build shelters in a haphazard fashion, without community participation, we sincerely hope that the government will issue a policy very soon.

Many people are expressing their strong desire to help immediately, even though people on the ground keep stressing that the need for emergency relief has ended, and any further rush to pour in more supplies will only result in duplicated effort, and may in fact drain the much-need energy and resources required for shelters and other rehab needs. (People from all parts of the country continue to call, with trucks already loaded with supplies that are not immediately needed, and are insisting on personally delivering them to the needy!) Our response is: PLEASE SAVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM AND RESOURCES to help in reconstruction! PLEASE ASK PEOPLE PUT AWAY FUNDS IN PLEDGES AND TRUSTS which may be needed within the next few weeks.

Similarly, rushing to buy fishing nets and boats, without a formal needs assessment, may also not be a productive exercise, unless one has already been working with the community, and knows their needs and their losses well. Many people on the ground are working with the fishing communities, as we speak, and just today there was a seminar organized by Action Aid and Madras Institute for Development Studies, with the participation of SIFFS (South India Federation of Fishermen), with whom Bhoomika has also been working. We are also being told not to assume that the fishing community merely wishes to get back to their lives as they were pre-Dec 26th. --the community may indeed wish to look at this disaster as an opportunity to solve some of their long-standing issues (such as decreasing catch, unsafe fishing technologies, etc.). Given such complicated issues, we feel that it would be prudent on our part to wait for a few days until the communities assess their losses and needs more methodically. As far as Bhoomika is concerned, we will be pleased to FACILITATE an information exchange meeting SIMILAR TO THE JAN 2nd MEETING, which can focus more in depth on all aspects of rehabilitation-this could occur within the next two weeks.

Some of the needs Bhoomika is working on

Final phase of rations and other supplies to unserved and underserved areas
Looking for Experienced Procurement Managers at the NGO Coordination Cell in Nagai to help deal with procurement and pricing issues.
Volunteers to assemble ration kits on site at the Coordination Center in Nagai rather than in places like Chennai (i.e. ship bulk rations from here from now on).
100 cell phones and SIM cards to help volunteers in the field communicate better
Storage in Chennai while identifying additional need for CELLRICH chemical to speed up body decomposition (already sent to Nagai and going to Andamans)
Large scale disinfectant products waiting in UK to clean up villages and beaches after initial clean-up (will be sent to the South and to Andamans).
Back-office support for the NGO coordination center: people, computers, phones, office supplies, wireless hubs, etc.
Identifying volunteers for a possible comprehensive Damage/Needs Assessment: Women, IT skills, minimum of one week on site, etc. are some of the requirements.
For Bhoomika Trust
Raju Rajagopal
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