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Livability and the Indian Ocean Tsunami 10 years on

December 26th 2014 marked the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami also known as the Boxing Day Tsunami in which nearly a quarter of million people died, two million were made homeless and many communities left devastated.

Stephen Muldoon, Assistant Director of Livability International and his wife Maggie, were working in Sri Lanka at the time of the disaster. Livability was one of the first charities on the scene to provide emergency relief in the immediate aftermath. Ten years on, Livability continues to work in Sri Lanka supporting the development of appropriate and sustainable infrastructure and services for disabled people across the country.

At the time of the Tsunami, Livability acted as a conduit for the British public who wanted to donate to local level aid efforts but through an established charity. £85,000 was raised which was used to support victims of the Tsunami including disabled people. Livability was particularly keen that the funding be used to achieve more sustainable, longer term impact. Livability focused its initial efforts on the provision of emergency relief to the victims, but as efforts became more coordinated, Livability’s attention shifted to directly supporting the development of sustainable services for disabled people.

One of the main achievements was to tackle the shortage of rehabilitation centres within the country. At the time of the disaster, there was only one national rehabilitation centre in Sri Lanka.  However ten years on there are several centres across the country – increasing the survival rates for disabled people and enabling them to live full, dignified and active lives in their own communities. Over the course of the past ten years, Livability has continued to work with local partners in Sri Lanka and has helped to achieve some of the following:

  • The development of a national training programme for healthcare professionals working in the field of spinal cord injury and rehabilitation management. Over 1500 people have received training to date.
  • The development of a network of provincial rehabilitation centres across the country – with an aim that each of Sri Lanka’s nine provinces would have its own rehabilitation centre. Five have now been established and it has significantly helped to increase the quality and coverage of essential services across the country.
  • The development of the Sri Lanka Spinal Cord Network (SLSCoN) that has become a focal point for the development of SCI services and human resources in Sri Lanka.
  • The development of a national policy and clinical practice guidelines for the management of people with spinal cord injury.

This structured and programmatic approach to the development and delivery of services for disabled people in Sri Lanka is now helping to inform the design and delivery of services in other countries in the region.

Livability remains committed to supporting efforts in South Asia with a particular focus on three countries – Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.  Similarly, Livability’s ongoing work with the Asian Spinal Cord Network (ASCoN) continues to create a platform for cross regional learning, sharing, education and service development support.

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