Saturday, March 24, 2007

Gramodaya Health Centre opening

A couple of colleagues and I went to the opening of a local health centre - not supported by Merlin - today. I avoided being placed at the head table and expected therefore to be able to escape giving a speech. No such luck. Being able to make impromptu speeches is a real part of my job it seems.

In the past two weeks I've been Scuba diving (locally), learning about security management (in Colombo), elephant spotting (in between), visiting overcrowded IDP camps (around Batticaloa) and dealing with loads and loads of bureaucracy (at the office). All in a day's work.

Guests at the opening of the Gramodaya Health Centre, Aryampathi, Sri Lanka.

Guests at the opening of the Gramodaya Health Centre, Aryampathi, Sri Lanka.

The government has been shelling and firing multi-barrel rockets into the western (inland) part of our district for several weeks now. The firing comes from a couple of kilometres away from our home and office and it's very loud. Business goes on almost as usual everywhere, although a school near the artillery has been closed. I've been to a partner NGOs office in that part of town and when the howitzer fires you can feel it in your chest. This is all quite a new experience for me.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Things to know and forget about me

My friend Melissa sent out one of those surveys where you reveal your soul. Here are my answers:

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Aid work Project Coordinator
2. Landmine mapper
3. Census mapper

4. Glacier researcher

Four movies I would watch over and over:
1. "Casablanca"
2. "Once were Warriors"

3. "American Beauty"
4. "Monty Python's Life of Brian"

Four places I have lived:
1. Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
2. Buchanan, Liberia
3. Kabul, Afghanistan

4. Asmara, Eritrea (favorite)

Four TV shows I like to watch:
1. I hate TV. Though... I do hope to watch the Formula 1 races this year.

Four places I have vacationed:
1. Perth, Australia
2. Perth, Scotland
3. Perth, Canada
4. Amsterdam

Four of my favorite foods:
1. steak
2. bananas

3. cheese
4. more steak

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Inver, Scotland
2. Montreal
3. Perth, Australia

4. The Grand Canyon [I could really go on and on in this category]

Four favorite authors:
1. E.M. Forster
2. Graham Greene
3. Greg Keelor (if writing music counts)
4. Ian McEwen

Four friends I think will respond [when this was a survey you were supposed to ask your friends to compete]: - I hate pressurizing anybody

Least favorite movies
1. "Dracula. Dead and Loving it"
2-16 please see:

What are you most afraid of?
1. Snakes
2. My future

What do you drive?
I'm not allowed to drive but I'm driven around in Mahindra Scorpios and other fine Mahindra products.

Where were you born? Manchester General Hospital, Manchester, UK.

Ever been toilet-papering trees? Not yet.

Favorite restaurant? Please see:

Favorite sport to watch?
1) Formula 1 racing
2) Anything with women in tight or short clothing

Favorite Drink? Tequila and beer side by side. However, I also crave fresh milk when I'm in a developing country that doesn't have it.

Favorite Ice cream? Banana

What color is your bedroom Carpet? Marble floor

How many times did you fail your driver's test? Passed first time.

What do you do most often when you are bored? Filling in questionnaires like these.

What are you listening to right now? A loud fan - because my Merlin computer got 'fixed' with a corrupt copy of XP and I can't play my music or even recharge my MP3 player.

What are your favorite colors? Most shades of green

Do you have any pets? My 23 year old cat died last year so none except 'Ratty' (also known as 'Karuna') - our household rat who can steel coconut out of a trap with impunity.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?
Reducing suffering

Sunday, March 11, 2007

IDP influx

16,000 IDPs walked at least 25km to our part of Batticaloa from the west of the district on Friday and Saturday to avoid shelling and anticipated military intervention. They join tens of thousands who have already arrived since March 1 - overburdening the camps that have already received 80,000 people displaced (in many cases twice) from further north.

Two of the IDPs.

IDP registration supervised by the local authority (left) at a hastily comandeered school.

IDPs waiting in the school for shelter to be prepared in one of the Batticaloa IDP camps.

Their camp will have to be provided with tents, food, toilets, and water. Tents are easy to stockpile and take 20 minutes to erect. Everything else takes days to provide and is expensive to replenish.

Some camps can be provided with sufficient water from quickly dug wells while others depend on daily water bowsering (this was a new word for me too). While IDPs are tired, under-nourished and overcrowded they face increased medical vulnerability. Merlin is the focal point for health care in the Batticaloa camps where we train and support a network of Community Based Volunteers. We are also instituting a systematic disease surveillance system.

The IDPs waiting in this school will have no access for even basic provisions and services until they can be moved to one of the over-stretched camps.

Shalvaraha East IDP camp

Left to right: water supply point provided by UNICEF; tents of the Shalvaraha East camp; two boys on a bike; (distant) an ice cream truck emmitting a very annoying tune (probably designed to make parents buy ice cream for kids just so it will go away) and new replacement housing for tsunami survivors.

The local NGO's camp manager (left), Merlin's Community Health Department's Kolitha Wickramage (a bloody Australian, centre) and Subash (a nice Sri Lankan, right) discuss record keeping of conjunctivitis cases.

An IDP child demonstrates proper Infection Control procedures. Merlin trains Community Based Volunteers - IDPs themselves - to promote best health practices such as infection control, food preparation, disease outbreak identification etc.

This young woman shows how easily all the posessions that her family of four carried from their homes fit into the corners of their neatly-kept tent.

Enough elephants already

On the way from Batticaloa to Dambulla yesterday we saw two more wild elephants (and one carrying white tourists).

This guy was more pleased to pose than those I photographed a couple of weeks ago.

This one seemed to me to be playing 'traffic'... by his rules.

I'm sorry this grab shot isn't sharp but I love how both the elephants and the shopkeeper are smiling.

OK... I promise not to post any more elephant photos unless they're much better than these.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Where I live

Typically surreal Sri Lanka - children playing under the sleepy eye of soldiers with AK47s...

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Palamunai Central Dispensary and Maternity Home

These are some of the participants and audience at Thursday's opening of the Merlin-supported Palamunai Central Dispensary and Maternity Home in Palamunai, Sri Lanka.