SF State, Stanford and Berkley join with other universities in Texas for Virtual Dialogue with Tsunami Region
March 29, 2005 1:12 PM
SF State joined with Stanford University, UC Berkley, Rice and St. Mary’s universities, Texas, Monday to host a videoconference dialogue with leaders of Sri Lankan organizations that are part of the tsunami relief effort to discuss the tragedy.
The Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami killed about 180,000 people in 11 countries and the number of missing is over 100,000, according to authorities in these countries.
Sri Lanka, the second most affected country in the tragedy, is now into the rebuilding phase- about 31,000 people died and 10,000 are still missing.
“We’re beginning… the reconstruction of permanent housing, school buildings, and health buildings,” said Lionel Fernando, chairman of the disaster relief for the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. “I will suggest that there’s a lot of need and skills that we need and we need to help the victims to plan the future. This (the tsunami) wasn’t expected, like a war. It suddenly came and the people need to be helped, no matter the race, religion.”
“I am sure there are a lot of opportunities available (for students to help) in all areas,” said another Sri Lanka’s panelist when a Berkley student asked what people could do as volunteers.
Housing is one of Sri Lanka’s main concerns, according to panelists.
“Housing is going to be very complex,” said one of Sri Lanka’s panelists. “There’s no viability of land.”
He also said the temporary shelters, where many are living after the disaster, will not provide enough protection to the some 450,000 people who do not have homes once the monsoon season begins in June-- the monsoon season in Southern Asia and India brings heavy rains to the subcontinent.
The panelists were grateful to the international humanitarian response to the tragedy.
“This event provoked humanity across borders,” said one of them. “Shelter, food items and medicine came to the victims.”
“I must say no contagious disease took place because we’ve had a high level of medication,” said another panelist.
Some were worried the videoconference was going to be cancelled because of Indonesia’s earthquake of 8.7 magnitude that shook the country today, in which about 1,000 people died, according to Indonesia’s authorities.
One of Sri Lanka’s panelists said the quake was reported by the international media right after it occurred, giving officials enough time to evacuate coastal areas and helping the evacuation to be “calm.”
“It demonstrates the power of communication and that two hours is sufficient to evacuate a population,” he said. “I was surprised to see the way it (the evacuation) was managed.”
“Individual responses (to the tsunami) have been very prompt because of communication, as one of the leaders (Sri Lankan) has pointed out in the conference,” said Nadiya Kravets, international relations major.
“Communication has enabled a lot of response,” Kravets said “Instead of governments taking the charge of the situation, it is the citizens who have pressured the governments to really give up.
Kravets said that the U.S.’s first initial government response “was really low in terms of funding,” but it improved after some international pressure.
“I think at this point it’s really the power of the civil society across the world to be responsible for this type of humanitarian efforts,” Kravets said.
Veronica Canton, president of the Americans for Informed Democracy (AID), said the conference was successful and students were able to interact with those who are directly involved in Sri Lanka’s rebuilding process.
“I thought it (the videoconference) was pretty cool,” said Vish Seshadri, 21, an international relations student. “I did not expect so much information.”
About 14 students gathered for the event in the ground level audio visual room of the J. Paul Leonard Library from 6:30 and 8 p.m.
The videoconference is the second of the series called Partners for Progress that allows U.S. citizens and tsunami victims to speak about the rebuilding effort in the region and seeks to sustain public awareness about the tragedy and to ensure long-term international support for rebuilding.
For more information go to the following website www.aidemocracy.org
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