Sunday, February 19, 2006

Governments Violating Human Rights of Tsunami Survivors - UN Study

Minivan News reports about a UN study on how governments are violating the rights of tsunami survivors.

In the Maldives, the viability of government’s ‘safe island’ programme is in serious doubt. “The programme’s stated aims are to develop a few islands as economically and socially sustainable. The government argues that this will enable cost-effective delivery of services and will provide protection from natural and other disasters. It will also, according to the government, divert the influx of migrants to its capital, Male’,” the report states.

“This plan, in existence since 1998, is now being funded by the European Union, World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and others through a trust fund managed by the government in collaboration with the UNDP. At present the entire population of three islands – Madifushi, Gemendhoo and Kadholhudhoo – and part of the population of a further 10 islands, are being relocated to other islands. People are left with no choice but to move as it is a precondition of housing and livelihood rehabilitation.

“Those affected by this programme have expressed their doubts about the safety rationale of the government and ask why the populations of more than 180 islands in similar circumstances (in terms of elevation, topography, proximity of homes to the sea) are not also being moved. They believe tsunami money may be being misused for developing new commercial centres.”

The report also finds a host of other problems that the government has failed to address post-tsunami, such as providing adequate, clean water.

“In the Maldives water for drinking and washing is in short supply in camps. Sanitation and sewerage are in poor condition – residents complain that drainage pipes become blocked two to three times a week making it impossible to use the toilets or tap water.

“Access to the bath-cum-lavatory in each shelter is through one of the bedrooms, posing difficulties for children and other resident adults if they need to use the toilet during the night. In the mornings, children from two or three families wait for their turn before going to school. There is hardly enough space for one person in the bathroom. In this situation maintaining personal hygiene is almost impossible.

““If any of the residents need to go to the toilet in the night, either she has to wake up the couple occupying the room attached to the toilet, or go outside. I cannot explain how embarrassing it is!” - resident of Kadholhudhoo Island, living in Ugoofaaru shelter site.”



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