Polykandy West in Jaffna District in the North of Sri Lanka is a small community of fifteen (15) most vulnerable families. These families who were earning a meager income as conservancy laborers at the Local Authority, had no proper shelter and were living in small makeshift shelters along the beach.
The Tsunami in December 2004 destroyed their makeshift shelters and these families were left completely helpless occupying sub-standard transit accommodation for almost two years. The IFRC funded Community Recovery and Reconstruction Partnership (CRRP), implemented by the UN-Habitat, at the request of the Government Agent, Jaffna and the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society – Jaffna Branch, decided to provide the full funding for construction of a house and a latrine for each family in this community. These houses were to be built on a government-provided relocation site outside the buffer zone. Construction activities commenced in October 2006 and are now nearing completion. The new houses meet the guidelines set by the NHDA, the government’s housing agency and are of a far higher quality than their pre-Tsunami shacks.
The highlight of the Polykandy West settlement is the collective community effort of these fifteen families. They formed themselves into a Community Development Council (CDC) under UN-Habitat guidance at the commencement of the project and supported each other in construction and building materials procurement activities. Today this Community Development Council has set an example to other communities in the Jaffna District, by providing community leadership and self management.
The CDC undertook and completed a community contract from the UN-Habitat to construct internal roads in their own community. With this experience, the Polykandy West CDC established creditability as a capable and trustworthy community organization prompting other funding agencies as well to offer them additional community contracts. They have already undertaken the expansion of the Community Hall at a cost of Rs. 1.12 million, funded by the North East Coastal Conservation Development Project (NECCDEP) and the construction of a storm water drain which runs through their own community, funded by the Government Agent, Jaffna at a cost of Rs. 1.0 million. Construction of this drain involved complicated technical work and the Government Agent has placed his trust in the capacity of this CDC. The CDC will also undertake the maintenance of this infrastructure.
These photographs of the new houses and infrastructure as well as the photographs of old shelters illustrate the recovery process launched by the Polykandy West community and their Community Development Council under the guidance of the UN-Habitat led CRRP team.