Homeopathic Treatment for victims of Tsunami and Conflict in Sri Lanka
The morning of the 26th of December 2004 dawned bright and clear. Families looked out over the calm ocean as they went about their daily duties. For the women and younger children the cooler mornings are the time to attend to the heavier domestic tasks.
The powerful 9.0 Richter scale earthquake devastated coastal areas of the Indian ocean.
As the Tsunami approached Sri Lanka with the speed of a jet plane, many watched in wonder as the sea receded and then, a wall of water rose, dark and powerful, moving inland with the unimaginable force of the ocean.
Those who were to survive ran in terror to higher ground and stayed there, while the unfortunate ones were not quick enough or returned to their homes to find loved ones or to collect their possessions.
The second wave, was even bigger and more destructive, swept away those who had not reach higher ground fast enough.
The Tsunami catastrophe struck Sri Lanka hardest at the town of Kalmunai on Sri Lanka's east coast. In the municipality of Kalmunai alone some 7,000 men, women and children perished along with thousands of homes and much of the town's infrastructure.
In minutes the Tsunami had irreversibly changed their lives.
For those who survived life would never be the same, they lost many of their friends, their families, their homes and possessions. Traumatised by the loss and devastation many could not understand why they were cursed by being left alive and having to continue to live.
Temporary shelters were built, Tsunami camps. Sheds with corrugated iron roofs. The people sat in these temporary shelters, sweltering hot and cramped, without adequate sanitation, bathing or toilet facilities and with little room for the grieving. An unimaginable future before them.
Thousands were left suffering, people came and helped where they could. Turning to help where ever it could be found, without the ability to plan, sharing their grief, surrounded by the grief of others, with the fear of the future over cloaked by the torment of the present.
Many bodies were never found. Mass graves were dug for those that were recovered.
Some bodies were identified while others were buried with their names unknown.
Those with acute physical ailments crowded the local hospitals. Overworked doctors and nurses saw streams of patients, with the limited facilities.
Overwhelmed, and under equipped, they did what they could.
Mobile medical clinics visited some of the camps.
The doctors prescribed medicines, donated to the Tsunami, as best they could.
There was little ability to cope with the devastating psychological and emotional trauma.
The sheer number of losses, so many lives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, families, friends. The loss of home, structure and community, to cope with such grief. So much loss, so many, such a destruction of life and society could not allow the community the traditional grieving process.
The men turned to drinking and all the social problems associated with cramped conditions and traumatised people mushroomed ominously.
Despite the unparalleled loss of life and property in Kalmunai, this coastal area was hard to reach. The civil war had been playing out for decades up and down this coast area. This economically poor war zone was volatile and hard to work with. Some NGOs came and helped, but it was limited. The International relief efforts tended to focus upon the more easily accessible parts of the island, especially in the South.
Homeopaths Without Borders (Germany)
In February 2005, Homeopaths Without Borders Germany (HoG) came to Kalmunai, on the east coast of Sri Lanka, in response to the Tsunami.
German Homeopaths volunteered and flew from Germany. Arriving on the island they faces a long drive from the west to the east coast to reach this relatively remote part of Sri Lanka and render their services to the victims of the Tsunami.
These professional homeopaths, their practices and families in Germany, generously gave up their holidays giving two to six weeks at a time. HOG was funded by many well-wishers including Knorr-Bremse Global Care who chose to help Tsunami survivors of Kalmunai and neighbouring Pandiruppu to rebuild their lives individually and collectively.
For the first months the homeopaths slept on the floors of grateful local homeopaths in the Muslim area of Kalmunai town. Their intention to set up a base clinic, where patients could come for treatment, and mobile clinics that visited the Tsunami camps.
We were in a Tamil and Muslin area, cultures that differed greatly from the west. Having spent time on the east coast I had some understanding of how to ask for help and to explain what we wanted to do. My familiarity with the local community and culture provided much needed assistance.
Working with the locals we coordinated the homeopaths and the Tsunami camps, regular clinics ran well and on time.
Local translators were employed, and trained to carefully translate in the homeopathic consultations.
Our dedicated translators were invaluable, giving invaluable insights into the local culture which is so different from the homeopathic practitioner's lives in Germany.
I stayed, overjoyed to be able to help the community and to work with in a homeopathic community.
We rented our own house and a permanent clinic space. Splendid work,
With a permanent presence in Sri Lanka and our own accommodation, visiting homeopaths could take some comfort after working long days helping the traumatised.
We were able to co-counsel, train our translators, maintain regular clinics in the Tsunami camps and girls' hostels, and establish a permanent clinic where members of all ethnic and religious groups could comfortably come to seek treatment.
We, The Homeopaths without Borders (Germany) and the generosity of the German people, treated over 5,000 patients, maintained a static free clinic and clinics in the tsunami camps. We also worked in two girls' hostels, where 160 of the poorest, most vulnerable children, received the benefit of homeopathy and experienced homeopaths.
What wonderful work!
Since 1983 Sri Lanka had been living with civil conflict. The hope at the time was that the Tsunami would provide the opportunity to progress the peace process. We all hoped that the island would unite in the wake of this natural catastrophe. Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case: the security situation deteriorated, claymore attacks, suicide bombing, open exchanges of fire and abductions resumed.
As the international news reported the increasing military activities, it became more difficult for German homeopaths to justify leaving their families to come to Sri Lanka. HOG faced the dilemma of how much they could risk the safety of their members. In October 2006 the homeopathic clinic in Pandirruppu closed.
I chose not to leave, I stayed and continued the homeopathic clinics and to work with the women and children of the Visions of Hope Project.
HOG left not only its good will but also its medical supplies, so I could continue the homeopathic clinic in the Visions of Hope children’s centre.