THE physical marks that the tsunami left are being addressed through rehabilitation efforts, but many people still have scars inside. Fishermen, who once accepted storm warnings as part and parcel of their lives, now prefer to abstain from fishing following advisories. Rangaraju, a fisherman of the newly created Sambathottam tsunami housing colony in Nagapattinam district, says that it will take some time for fishermen to resume their normal life.
But the deepest scars have been left on children, especially those who lost one or both of their parents. PSYCHO Trust, a Karur-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), has been providing support in the form of bimonthly visits by psychiatrist Dr. N. Shalini to more than 1,200 orphans in the district, who have been identified with various forms of mental illnesses. Recently, PSYCHO Trust inaugurated a tele-medicine facility at the Annai Sathya Orphanage in Nagapattinam to provide more regular interactions through video-conferencing. With a severe shortage of qualified specialists and the pressing need to ensure that the children return to a healthy life, such measures are required and NGOs have filled the gaps admirably.
Apart from their regular resource-providing role, NGOs are also being tapped increasingly by the government as facilitators. Under the recently announced Rs.299-crore project funded by the Rome-based International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), all the coastal districts affected by the tsunami will be provided opportunities for livelihood creation. Fish-marketing societies and micro-enterprise development through womens self-help groups will be key components of this project, and NGOs have been asked to partner the government in a facilitating role to give support at the local level. These facilitating NGOs are expected to be useful in identifying thrust areas in particular villages and also the resource persons to be approached to ensure successful implementation of the project.
NGOs have played an important role in mobilising many communities who were isolated before the tsunami. At a meeting of fisherfolk in Nagapattinam on International Fisheries Day, it was evident that they were aware of some of the important policies that affect their profession, including Coastal Regulation Zone rules and restrictions on various kinds of nets that destroy young fish. While there have been complaints of belligerence by the community since NGOs stepped in and promised them all kinds ofShyam Ranganathan