Report From Sri Lanka: Sad News; New Hope

January 04, 2005

Phone: (608) 395-2000

Madison, WI-Shortly after last week's horrific devastation in South Asia the Sri Lankan Credit Union Federation (SANASA) began to provide immediate ground relief.

The most recent report, from P.A. Kiriwandeniya, chairman of SANASA is worse than originally anticipated. The current death toll tops 31,000 in Sri Lanka alone. According to the ministry of social welfare of Sri Lanka, as of January 4 there were still 3,846 people missing, while over 15,000 are injured. General estimates put the number displaced from their homes to makeshift camps and settlements at close to 1 million.

As expected, the economy is devastated; more than 75% of the fishing industry destroyed and the tourism business is wondering if it will ever recover. In addition, it is now known that 800 SANASA credit unions were destroyed—far more than the initial 100 reported.

Recovery will be a slow process, as the SANASA network begins the reconstruction process. SANASA still includes 8,000 primary societies (credit unions) scattered across the island and 33 district unions. Its branches have already helped distribute aid in the form of food, clothing and medical supplies and according to Kiriwandeniya, the Galle branch arranged for the funerals of 650 victims.

Kiriwandeniya also had some unexpectedly good news to report. Because of the generosity of donors and volunteers, Sri Lankan survivors have enough food and clothing to survive for the time being, though they are still in need of medical supplies.

With basic necessities secured for the moment, SANASA is moving into the third phase of its recovery plan (the second phase included clearing the devastated areas and setting up youth camps). Phase three includes building 1,000 shelter units, providing cooking utensils for 25,000 families, taking guardianship of more than 100 orphaned children and generating jobs to help revive the economy.

Kiriwandeniya has requested financial assistance from the international credit union community for this third phase in the relief effort. WOCCU will continue soliciting donations from its members and associates, engaging in the reconstruction process.

For more information on how to contribute to the Worldwide Credit Union Foundation-Tsunami Relief Fund visit the WOCCU website at

World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.

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