Human rights violations plague five tsunami-hit countries, report says
Wed February 1, 2006 16:01 EST .
Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ More than a year after the tsunami in Southeast Asia, many of the most vulnerable survivors are plagued by discrimination in aid distribution, forced relocation and violence against women, according to a report released Wednesday.
The report, by three international nonprofit groups, documented conditions in five countries devastated by the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami.
Within the countries _Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives_ some of the most vulnerable groups are women, children and ethnic minorities, the report said. Those in poor neighborhoods consistently bear the largest burden, it said.
``Nature treated (the citizens of these countries) equally, but their governments are not treating them equally,'' said Ramesh Singh, chief executive of ActionAid International, one of the groups that compiled the report.
About 215,000 people died in the tsunami and millions of others in the region lost their homes, health care and livelihood.
Field research involving more than 50,000 survivors found widespread instances of land grabbing to serve commercial interests, shoddy construction in government-sponsored housing projects, uneven distribution of aid packages among devastated industries, and a host of other violations, the report said.
Women also continue to suffer because of their gender, the report said.
In relief camps and shelters in Sri Lanka, for example, men control access to sanitary napkins and underwear, and harassment prevents many women from asking for the items they need, said Judy Devadason, a Sri Lankan women's rights activist. She said none of the camps she has visited in the country offered any sort of reproductive care.
The tsunami prompted an outpouring of international support that broke previous donation records among groups such as the American Red Cross.
``This report shows that there has been a breach of trust _the trust offered by these supporters in the names of the people who suffered and survived the tsunami,'' Singh said.
ActionAid and the other two sponsors of the report, the People's Movement for Human Rights Learning and Habitat International Coalition, said the document was meant less as a criticism than as a cautionary tale and a call for the governments in question and the international community to right the wrongs committed in the tsunami response.
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Published: Wed Feb 1 23:31:41 EST 2006