COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (BWAid/HBAid)–Tears, pain and suffering on the Holiday Island. These were the first impressions of the Baptist World Aid/Hungarian Baptist World Aid Immediate Response Team consisting of special search and rescue professionals, medical doctors and humanitarian experts who arrived Dec. 28 in Sri Lanka, just two days after the killer waves hit the island.

One of the first international NGOs in the area, the team built up contact with official government bodies as well as with local Baptist communities. They also linked with several other local Christian organizations to provide immediate support to some thousands of those two million people who are officially reported to be victims of the natural disaster, directly or indirectly.

The Hungarian Baptists’ professional and effective Disaster Response Team has worked in the last few years in several other places–in India, Turkey and Bam, Iran. The city of Bam was also hit by earthquakes last year on Dec. 26, causing the death of about 30.000 people.

In Sri Lanka, it is still unclear exactly how many people died and how many lost their homes due to the waves, but the numbers are continuously increasing. The HBAid team said the tidal waves killed tens of thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless on the island.

There is a serious lack of drinking water and food. Many people are starving, especially in those remote areas where there is no access due to the destroyed roads and streets.

The lack of local humanitarian management and serious internal conflicts are further obstacles for humanitarian organizations to face. Officials also fear outbreaks of epidemics and infections that would also endanger the poorest and most vulnerable population.

As a result of the first days of HBAid’s needs assessment and operations in Sri Lanka, we are able and willing to implement the following Immediate Response Plan in order to save as many lives as possible:

–Establishment of public kitchens providing warm and cold food in especially endangered rural areas.

–Provision of drinking water for locals in and outside of temporary camps in rural areas.

–Healthcare services for the most vulnerable ones among them for children and mothers.

–Provision of special food, milk and vitamins for mothers and little babies.

–Extension of HBAid’s Child Support Program on orphans in Sri Lanka.

–In-kind and financial support for still functioning orphanages in remote areas.

–Establishment of new temporary orphanages in remote areas.

Hungarian Baptist Aid is working hard for the benefit of the victims in Sri Lanka hand in hand with our local Christian Brothers and we ask the Lord to lead us on our mission.

Ferenc Tisch reports from the field office of Hungarian Baptist Aid.

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