Friday, May 8, 2009

Beware of More Terrorist activities, US think tanker warns.........

The Conflict in Sri Lanka: A Cornered Tiger Is Still Deadly

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart @ www.stratfor.com

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told parliament May 5 that he believes Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is among the large group of Tiger militants trapped in a 4-square kilometer coastline area near Mullaitivu. The area around Mullaitivu has been the final focal point of a recent larger government military offensive aimed at restoring government control of northeast Sri Lanka and crushing the South Asian country’s separatist rebels, who have controlled large parts of the region for the past several years.

The Tigers’ battlefield losses have been compounded by the severe disruption to their formerly extensive financial network (primarily concentrated among the Tamil diaspora in Western Europe and Canada) after the European Union placed the group on its terror list in 2006. This led to tightened sanctions by Europe, the United States and Canada against the Tigers, as well as greater international cooperation in arresting Tiger smuggling rings. Some of the Tigers’ main financiers have since been arrested, and many of their assets have been frozen. It takes a lot of money and equipment to wage a conventional war, and those resources have become far harder for the Tigers to come by of late.

As STRATFOR has previously noted, if Sri Lankan troops manage to crush the remnants of the Tigers’ hard-pressed conventional military forces, the Tigers will have little choice but to give up on conventional warfare (at least for the time being). But the Tigers’ separatist struggle is more than 30 years old and has been marked by great brutality on both sides. Because of this, there is very little chance the Tigers will simply accept defeat and fade into history. Instead, now that the government has the military advantage, the Tigers can be expected to continue their war against the government by melting back into the populace and resorting to guerrilla tactics and terrorism.

In many ways, this will resemble events in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a militarily weaker force melted away in the face of a more powerful conventional military force. The Tigers, however, have a far more experienced and effective terrorist apparatus than either their Taliban or Iraqi counterparts. This struggle will therefore remain bloody in Sri Lanka (and perhaps even abroad).

Background

The Tigers are battling for the creation of an independent Tamil homeland for the country’s 10-15 percent Tamil minority, the dominant ethnicity in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. The Tigers are struggling against the majority Sinhalese Buddhist-controlled government, which has fought the Tigers in a bloody civil war that has lasted nearly three and a half decades. Over the decades, the Tigers have developed an extremely sophisticated paramilitary organization. This force consists of not only ground forces (complete with artillery and even some armor), but also a sea wing that engages in arms smuggling and naval attacks against the Sri Lankan Navy — to include suicide boat attacks — a small air wing, and an elite force of militants trained to conduct assassinations and terrorist attacks known as the Black Tigers.

The Black Tigers became famous for suicide bombings (one of which killed former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991), and we are hard-pressed to think of another militant group that has assassinated as many VIPs, including several Cabinet ministers and numerous members of parliament, as have the Black Tigers. Last year alone, they killed a Sri Lankan member of parliament on Jan. 1, the minister for nation building on Jan. 8, and the highway minister on April 7. They also killed the Sri Lankan foreign minister in August 2005.

The Tigers’ fortunes have fluctuated over the years. Several times they have brought large swathes of northern and eastern Sri Lanka under their exclusive control, only to lose them to government offensives, such as an offensive launched in January 2001. As mentioned, international pressures on their finances and logistics in recent years, plus the loss of the strategically significant Elephant Pass in January — formerly a key logistics hub for their resupply efforts and an important base for their naval efforts — mean the Tigers are now in an uphill battle for survival. Compounding the Tigers’ woes, the government now is far better prepared, equipped and trained than it has been during previous military offensives. But despite being so hard-pressed and having taken such significant losses, there are no signs that the Tigers have lost the will to fight. They continue to hold out rather than surrender, and we have not seen news of desertions.

The Tigers’ material losses will be more difficult to overcome than their loss of personnel. They should be able to find new volunteers (or conscripts) among Sri Lanka’s Tamil population. Their ability to recruit should be aided by the Sri Lankan military’s policy of forcing Tamils into internment camps, something the Tigers also have leapt on as an international propaganda opportunity. Tiger militants are well-trained and are also subject to rigorous political indoctrination. With rare exception, the Tigers prefer to fight — or take their standard-issue cyanide capsules — and die rather than surrender.

This willingness for self-sacrifice is best seen in the Black Tigers, which were early adopters of suicide bombing attacks and have been among the most frequent users of the tactic. The Black Tigers also have employed more female suicide bombers than any other group. (They used a female suicide operative in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.) The Black Tigers reportedly have a waiting list of militants seeking to enter the unit — suicide bombers reportedly are held in almost mythical esteem by their ordinary Tiger colleagues — and Prabhakaran reportedly handpicks each member.

Insurgency and Terror

As seen from Iraq, Afghanistan and any number of historical examples, it is very difficult to eradicate an insurgency that can blend in with a sympathetic local population. Doing so is even harder when the insurgents can exploit international borders to create a place of refuge. Although Sri Lanka is an island, it is located very close to the coast of India. It lies just a few miles from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, an Indian state that, as its name implies, has a substantial ethnic Tamil population. Some Indian Tamils are sympathetic to the Tigers, and the Tigers have established a sizable presence in Tamil Nadu.

Sympathy in Tamil Nadu for the Tigers came into view May 5, 2009, when a large group of pro-Tiger Indian Tamil activists blocked a convoy of Indian army trucks in the city of Coimbatore because they believed the trucks were carrying supplies destined for the Sri Lankan military. The activists reportedly damaged and ransacked some of the trucks.

Support in Tamil Nadu means that the Tigers can — and do — exploit the international border to their advantage. The Tigers use India in much the same way that the Taliban and al Qaeda use Pakistan. The Tigers’ logistical and training infrastructure in India is especially important during times (like the present) when the Sri Lankan government is hammering them. The Tigers also have a long history of working with an array of other militant groups in India and the general region. This cooperation is not based on ideology, but rather on mutual benefit, such as bolstering the groups’ ability to smuggle weapons and other goods.

Another truism about insurgency is that it takes far fewer resources to sustain an insurgency than it does to fight a conventional war. The amount of ordnance expended in a single conventional battle can sustain months or even years of insurgent activity, especially if the insurgents can acquire ordnance from their enemy during their operations. Conducting terrorist attacks requires even fewer resources than insurgent attacks; terrorism is a cheap and time-tested means of hitting a militarily superior foe. When properly conducted, terrorist attacks are the ultimate exercise of asymmetrical warfare.

For a militant group to effectively wield terrorism as an asymmetrical weapon, however, it must gain mastery of a range of tactical skills that we refer to as terrorist tradecraft. These skills include, among other things, the ability to operate without being detected, the ability to collect intelligence on potential targets, the ability to procure munitions, the ability to recruit operatives, the ability to plan effective strikes and the ability to construct reliable improvised explosives devices (IEDs).

Through decades of trial and error, the Tigers have developed all of these skills, as evidenced by their large number of successful assassinations. In fact, they have a record of tactical success that would make any jihadist group green with envy. The Tigers excel at collecting intelligence, and their female operatives form a significant part of their intelligence apparatus, since they generally can travel more widely than males can and do not tend to arouse suspicions to the extent male operatives do. Female Tigers who are already willing to serve as suicide bombers not surprisingly have been willing to use seduction to obtain information critical to their cause.

The group has also long demonstrated the ability to operate in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, as well as in other non-Tamil majority areas. And it has conducted scores of attacks against military, financial and political targets and civilian soft targets in non-Tamil areas. The group conducted five suicide bombings in Colombo alone in 2008, and several attacks against soft targets like passenger buses and commuter trains. The group also has a cadre of very polished and experienced bombmakers who make reliable and effective IEDs.

Perhaps most spectacularly, the Tiger air wing launched a 9/11-inspired airborne suicide attack Feb. 20, in which their two remaining aircraft were loaded with explosives and sent out after dark on a suicide mission to attack Colombo. One of the planes was shot down, but the other plane reached the capital and struck the 12th floor of the 15-floor Inland Revenue Department, where it exploded — a scene captured by a Sri Lankan navy infrared camera and posted to YouTube.


It is thought that the Inland Revenue Department was not the intended target, but that the plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and accidentally struck that building. According to Sri Lankan sources, the intended target may have been either the headquarters of the Sri Lankan air force, which is next to the building that was hit, or the president’s house or army headquarters, which also are close by. The decision to use the remaining Tiger aircraft in this type of suicide operation against the government in Colombo rather than risk losing them to advancing government troops is a prime example of the Tigers’ mind-set.


Mayhem in the Forecast

With the Tigers’ air wing now apparently gone, further 9/11-style suicide planes are unlikely. The Tigers, however, will almost certainly plan more terrorist strikes. Such attacks will be seen as retaliation against the Sri Lankan government. They also will be used to hurt the economy (and thus the government’s ability to finance its military efforts). And they will be used to force the government to divert troops from the northeast to provide security to other parts of the country, thus taking pressure off the Tamil heartland. The Tigers also have shown a limited cyberwarfare capability, which they can be expected to use to score propaganda points and wreak economic havoc when possible. In addition to assassinating VIPs and attacking passenger trains and buses, the Tigers have a long history of attacking villages and massacring Sinhalese Buddhist and Muslim civilians to foster a sense of terror.

We anticipate that small Tamil units will resume operations to massacre civilians, in particular Sinhalese Buddhist and Muslim civilians. The Tigers also probably will attack crowds of civilians and commercial centers. We also anticipate assassination attempts to be launched against military and political VIPs in Colombo, and against local/regional leaders and military and police commanders in the northeast. Attacks against passenger trains and buses also can be expected. STRATFOR sources in Sri Lanka advise that the Tigers are likely to strike at the Yal Devi Express, a train that runs from Colombo to Vavuniya and is of great symbolic value to Tamil-Sinhalese coexistence.

We believe there will be numerous attacks and ambushes targeting traffic on the A-9 road that leads from Colombo to Jaffna aimed at both military and commercial targets, blending terrorism and insurgency. Such attacks could involve ambushes and roadside IEDs, a tactic the Tigers have used with success in the past, such as with the roadside IED used in the January 2008 assassination of the minister of nation building.

Due to the long history of conflict in Sri Lanka (which has sometimes been fueled by external meddling), we do not share the assessment by some in the Sri Lankan government that the Tigers are all but dead. They may be severely damaged as a conventional military force — for a time at least — but the group’s cadre of dedicated, zealous militants will certainly spill a lot more blood in their quest for independence and vengeance against the Sri Lankan government.

www.stratfor.com

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cyber Terrorism, Let's Get Prepared!

The official website of Sri Lanka Army, www.army.lk has been hacked by suspected LTTE hackers this morning (May 1). The Webmaster of the Army called the attack a desperate bid by the LTTE propagandists to hold the truth on humanitarian mission being revealed to the world. He said measures are being taken to restore the website soon. (1) In addition, the government newsportal, www,lankapuwath.lk has also been hacked by suspected LTTE hackers, this morning. 


The internet has fast infiltrated the society and culture of today’s world. The computers are assigned more responsible and computer networks have proven to be extremely useful in all aspects of life. Important information is stored in computers and access to such data bases can cause serious harm.


Cyberterrorism is defined as “The premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, against computers and/or networks, with the intention to cause harm or further social, ideological, religious, political or similar objectives. Or to intimidate any person in furtherance of such objectives.” This definition was created by Kevin G. Coleman of the Technolytics Institute. (2)
This can include use of information technology to organize and execute attacks against networks, computer systems and telecommunications infrastructures, or for exchanging information or making threats electronically. Examples are
· hacking into computer systems
· introducing viruses to vulnerable networks
· web site defacing, denial-of-service attacks
· or terroristic threats made via electronic communication. (3)
An example of cyber-terrorism could be hacking into a hospital computer system and changing someone's medicine prescription to a lethal dosage as an act of revenge. It sounds far fetched, but these things can and do happen. (4)
Some Examples (2)
1. Terrorists in Romania illegally gained access to the computers controlling the life support systems at an Antarctic research station, endangering the 58 scientists involved. However, the culprits were stopped before damage actually occurred.
2. In May 2007 Estonia was subjected to a mass cyber-attack in the wake of the removal of a Russian World War II war memorial from downtown Talinn. The attack was a distributed denial of service attack in which selected sites were bombarded with traffic in order to force them offline; nearly all Estonian government ministry networks as well as two major Estonian bank networks were knocked offline; in addition, the political party website of Estonia's current Prime Minister Andrus Ansip featured a counterfeit letter of apology from Ansip for removing the memorial statue.
3. In October 2007, the website of Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko was attacked by hackers. A radical Russian nationalist youth group, the Eurasian Youth Movement, claimed responsibility.
The Implications
Cyberterrorism can have serious implications on countries, their people and economy. Internet based business can break down. Computer system damages can have serious financial implications and the loss of certain data cannot be estimated financially.
Here are few key things to remember to pretect yourself from cyber-terrorism:
All accounts should have passwords and the passwords should be unusual, difficult to guess.
Change the network configuration when defects become know.
Check with venders for upgrades and patches.
Audit systems and check logs to help in detecting and tracing an intruder.
If you are ever unsure about the safety of a site, or receive suspicious email from an unkown address, don't access it. It could be trouble. (4)

Works Cited
1. Ministry of Defence Sri Lanka. News. [Online] 05 01, 2009. [Cited: 05 01, 2009.] http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090501_01.
2. Wikipedia. [Online] [Cited: May 01, 2009.] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyber-terrorism.
3. [Online] [Cited: 05 01, 2009.] http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/CIP/cyberterrorism.htm.
4. Computer Ethics. Jimmy Sproles, Will Byars. 1988.

The Swine Fever Epidemic

The Current Situation of Swine Fever
According to the World Health Organization, the situation continues to evolve rapidly. As of 06:00 GMT, 1 May 2009, 11 countries have officially reported 331 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection.
The United States Government has reported 109 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. Mexico has reported 156 confirmed human cases of infection, including nine deaths.
The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths – Austria, Canada , Germany , Israel , Netherlands, New Zealand , Spain , Switzerland and the United Kingdom . (1)

The agent:
The causative agent of Swine fever is a flu virus. This virus often infects pigs, however they can rarely spread to humans. This may be due to being in close contacts with an infected pig. The virus causing swine Influenza among human is being described by the USA as a new subtype of A/H1N1 not previously detected in swine or humans. Genetically it is a reassortant of America-Eurasian swine influenza virus. This swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human.

The host:
Pigs provide an excellent host for this. The new version has developed the ability to spread among humans, who then infect each other through coughing and sneezing.

The Environment:
The international travel has created an environment which facilitates the spread of this virus.

The Symptoms:
The symptoms are the same as with normal flu: fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches. Several of those diagnosed with swine flu after trips to Mexico mistook the first signs as the effects of jetlag. Some patients have also reported diarrhoea and vomiting. In Mexico, those who have died suffered from pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Victims will have a temperature, and many airports are fitting scanners so that people arriving from affected areas with a fever can be quarantined. Outside Mexico the virus appears milder than many had feared - although sufferers have been hospitalised.

Who is vulnerable?
According to reports so far, the new strain is most lethal to those in the 25 to 45 age range. This is ominous because it was the hallmark of the Spanish 1918 flu pandemic that killed tens of millions worldwide. However, the circumstances were quite different: many thousands of victims were young men recovering from service in World War One.
The H1N1 strain is far less dangerous than H5N1, or bird flu.

Containment of the Virus

In Mexico itself, mass gatherings are banned as are handshakes and kisses on the cheek. Schools and universities are currently closed. Restaurants in Mexico City have been ordered to close, too.

Is there a Vcaccine?
Not yet. A vaccine would take several months to prepare. (2)

Is it safe to eat pork and pork products?
Yes. Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The swine influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C, corresponding to the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat. (1)

Is Sri Lanka ready to face Swine Fever?
Yes. Many activities have been initiated in Sri Lanka through the Epidemiological Unit of Sri Lanka to face the epidemic. Some of the initiatives include(3):

A Fact Sheet has been prepared and distributed to all government and private health institutions, provincial and regional directors of health, regional epidemiologists, medical officers/maternal & child health and medical officers of health
A Health Alert has been sent to all government and private health institutions to initiate surveillance of suspected cases and collection of laboratory samples.
A special alert with guidelines has been sent to Airport health officer and the Port health officer to initiate specified vigilance and surveillance activities at these entry points. A letter of request on this alert were sent to Harbour Master at Colombo Port, Director General Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman Airport and Aviation Services
Twenty hospitals had already been identified as sentinel hospitals for pandemic influenza preparedness under the World Bank funded National Avian/Pandemic Influenza Programme and clinical case management capacity in these hospitals in a likely event had been strengthened by establishing/upgrading isolation units, supply of antiviral drug stocks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training of staff in pandemic preparedness and response including infection control.
Steps have been taken to strengthen the already available stocks of anti viral drugs and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the identified sentinel hospitals and also at the Medical Supplies Division.

References:
1. World Health Organization. World Health Organization. [Online] May 01, 2009. [Cited: May 01, 2009.] http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_05_01/en/index.html.
2. The First Post. [Online] http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/47231,news,swine-fever-its-origins-and-symptoms-to-look-out-for.
3. The Epidemiological Unit of Sri Lanka. [Online] 2009. [Cited: 05 01, 2009.] http://www.epid.gov.lk/Swin%20Flu.htm.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Govt. committed to resettle all IDPs as early as possible

With the experience gained in resettling 187,000 IDPs in the Eastern Province in the post - conflict period, the government is confident of resettling nearly 200,000 IDPs now living in welfare centers in the Wanni as early as possible. The government is committed comprehensively to ensure the well - being of the civilians who have been evacuated, said Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights addressing a media briefing at the Presidential Secretariat today(24).

The total figure of IDPs as of today is 193,960. Last four days, 105,274 civilians have escaped the no fire zone. 75% of them have been handed over to the Government Agents. 10,880 have been evacuated by the ICRC, Out of them, 4,736 are patients, and 6,144 bystanders. There are 20 sites operating in Vavuniya, 17 sites in Jaffna and 03 in Mannar, the Hon. Minister added.

The government has requested United Nations Agencies, UNCHR the UNICEF NGOs and INGOs to provide tents to provide shelter to IDPs Mr. Basil Rajapakse, Senior Presidential Advisor too has made arrangements with authorities in Dubai and Jordan to provide tents.

Steps are being taken to provide education for the children of IDPs. Their basic health needs, and drinking water are provided to ensure sanitation. The government has requested the FAO to add variety to the conventional food parcel, the Hon. Minister said.

In view of the exodus of IDPs, the critical need in this crucial hour is to provide emergency aid to IDPs.

The government will not only resettle the IDPs as in the post - conflict eastern province, but restore their livelihoods, too Relief is forth coming via several channels in response to government appeals. United Nations have requested member countries to donate funds UK, Netherlands, Germany etc have provided aid directly. In addition, NGOs contribute significantly to relief operations. Meanwhile, the Treasury has allocated massive funds for the well - being of the IDPs, the Hon. Ministers revealed.

Today, the Army is playing the role of benefactor to IDPs. They care for the sick and look after the kids. The Army is acting in the best traditions of a disciplined force. We appreciate their professionalism and respect them for the on - going humanitarian mission of caring for the displaced civilians.

The officers and the rank and file of the Security Forces are educated in Human Rights as enshrined in UN Conventions and Treaties which Sri Lanka has endorsed, when ever participating in international symposia, he requests his counterparts to explore the possibility of exposing the members of Security Forces to human rights awareness programs, the Hon. Minister said.

Dr. Palitha Kohona, Foreign Secretary said the Security Forces are strictly instructed to avoid civilian casualties Presently, Security Forces have stopped using heavy weapons but only use small arms. Some of them who are hurt among the IDPs may be combatants, Dr. Kohona revealed. The combatants who have surrendered will be rehabilitated and trained in vocations. All combatants are Sri Lankan citizens Dr. Kohona asserted.

Dr. Ishwara Kottegoda, Coordinator, Ministry of Health, Disaster Preparedness and Response Unitelaborated on the health facilities provided to IDPs. Padaviya hospital will be developed to accommodate more patients. A health Centre to cater to 10,000 IDPs has been set up. There are 40 doctors attached to welfare centers and 50 more will join them shortly.

Courtesy: MCNS

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Minor Earth tremor felt in Sri Lanka

April 15th Earth Tremor – A Messenger of an Impending Disaster?

                                     

A minor Earth tremor occurred on the 15th April 2009, which was felt at  several areas of Central, Eastern and Uva provinces in Sri Lanka. (1) The Communty Tsunami Early-warning Centre (CTEC) in Peraliya received a number of inquiries from Hambantota, Matara and Galle Districts as well. (2)


It is interesting to note that on the evening of April 14th, 1615, (just a day prior to April 15th) a strong earthquake struck Sri Lanka unleashing widespread damage and casualties in western sections of the island, most notably in Colombo. It is thought that 200 houses collapsed. A part of the western city wall of the Colombo Fort collapsed destroyed. A bastion also collapsed and destroyed a neighboring house killing 4 persons. A stone bridge was also destroyed in the earthquake. Deep fissures opened in the earth. According to a historical text (reproduced below), flames and sulphur are said to have been emitted from these fissures. It is thought that 2000 persons were killed in and around Colombo as a result of this earthquake. If the description of the damage described in this text is to be believed, this earthquake would most likely have a maximum intensity (MMI) of VIII or perhaps even IX. (3)


Knowledge of this earthquake is derived from a 4 page pamphlet published in Lisbon in 1616, the contents of which were brought to light by late Fr. S.G. Pereira, SJ a pioneer historian, proficient in several languages, Prof. in Missionology Georgian University Rome, etc.
(3)



The 15th April, 2009 earth tremor was not reported by the USGS earthquake notification service. (4) There was no Tsunami threat due to this event. This incident has been recorded by the Pallekele Seismic station, which is part of the Global Seismic network, a Geological Survey and mines bureau person stated, as a response to a a telephone inquiry. The magnitude of this quake is to be around Magnitude 4.

Sri Lanka is located in a considerably inactive zone , free of large earth quakes. Sri Lanka lies on a thick and old crustal block with no neo-tectonic activity. However, over the last few decades, our country felt minor earth tremors, one or two every year (5).

The source of these earth tremors could be three fold:

1.    The active zone near the Zundra trench, which was responsible for the Indian ocean Tsunami – No significant earth quake activity was recorded around the 15th Of April 2009 event.

2.    There is a seismically active zone from about three degrees south of Sri Lanka and extends four degrees down to the southern hemisphere. The dynamics of this region are under study. – Any activity in this region needs to be studied to determine the origin of the 15th November 2009 earth tremor.

3.    Localized seismic activity –These are not generally picked up by regional or global networks. High seismic activity has been reported in Hambegamuwa area in past instances, which is a part of localized activity.

 

 

This earth tremor is an eye opener to the Disaster Risk Management professionals especially to the experts of Geology and Seismology at the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau of Sri Lanka, to determine the Earth Quake Risk of Sri Lanka. It is high time that Disaster Risk Management practices are incorporated into the routine development activities of the country. It is better to be prepared, as we have not, as a nation, forgotten the tragedy of Tsunami which would have been easily prevented.

 

References:

  1. 1.       http://www.colombopage.com/archive_09/April1545738RA.html
  2. 2.       www.communitytsunamiwarning.com
  3. 3.       http://www.lankalibrary.com/geo/portu/earthquake.htm
  4. 4.       http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/
  5. 5.       Nalin de Silva, Earthquake hazards, Project on Determination of the outer edge of the Continental margin of Sri lanka under “UNCLOS”,  DEOCOM Project.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Year Greetings!


Wish you a very happy, prosperous and peaceful Sinhala and Hindu New Year!

Photocreidt: www.goldensrilanka.com

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sri Lankan Incident Map

Visist http://sri.globalincidentmap.com/home.php for latest updates of incidents in Sri Lanka.

Visit www.globalincidentmap.com for latest updates of the world. 

A challnge for Sri Lanka Disaster Managers: Acid Spills in the sea....

Compiled by Novil Wijesekara, Safer Sri Lanka

'MV Grand Bar', a ship carrying a load of 6,250 metric tons of sulphuric acid from Tuticorin to Kakinadan in India developed troubles on Monday, April 6. The crew was rescued by navy and it as found that the Sulfuric acid was leaking. The ship sank 90 nautical miles off Trincomalee. Navy managed to tow the vessel to the deep sea. It was confirmed to have gone 3,000m deep to the sea. (1)

Sulfuric acid (H2SO4) is a clear, colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is very corrosive. As the largest-volume industrial chemical produced in the world, consumption of sulfuric acid is often used to monitor a country's degree of industrialization. Agricultural fertilizers represent the largest single application for sulfuric acid (65%). Other uses include production of dyes, alcohols, plastics, rubber, ether, glue, film, explosives, drugs, paints, food containers, wood preservatives, soaps and detergents, pharmaceutical products, petroleum products, pulp and paper. The common lead-acid storage battery is one of the few consumer products that actually contains sulfuric acid is the common lead-acid storage battery. (2)

Sulfuric Acid has moderate acute (short-term) toxicity on aquatic life. Sulfuric acid is very corrosive and would badly burn any plants, birds or land animals exposed to it. It has moderate chronic (long-term) toxicity to aquatic life. Chronic effects on plants, birds or land animals have not been determined. Small quantities of sulfuric acid will be neutralized by the natural alkalinity in aquatic systems. Larger quantities may lower the pH for extended periods of time. (3)

Similar incidents have been reported in the past from other countries as well.
A ship ran aground in China's 900-year-old Grand Canal dumping 200 tons of sulfuric acid into water in the latest incident to taint the country's already severely polluted waterwaysThe Xinhua News Agency said that pollution-control officials dumped 200 tons of liquid alkali into the water within 12 hours to neutralize the acid. (4)


On November 3, a barge loaded with 235,000 gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid, overturned shortly after arriving at a dock in the Port of Texas City, near Galveston. The acid plume traveled into the deeper parts of the channel, to an area approximately 300-600 meters around the vessel. (5)

Sri Lanka government is in the process of taking legal action against the company who is responsible for the incident. Ranjith Kularatne, Chairman of the Marine Environmental Protection Authority stated that they are in the process of preparing the necessary report in this regard. (1)
This is a good opportunity to see how effective the existing plans and mechanisms for oil spills management are to handle an unforseen disaster.

References:
1. Colombo Page, . Colombo Page. [Online] 04 09, 2009. [Cited: 04 10, 2009.] http://www.colombopage.com/archive_09/April9133734RA.html.
2. [Online] http://mooni.fccj.org/~ethall/h2so4/h2so4.htm.
3. Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts - Government of Australia. National Polution Inventry. [Online] [Cited: April 10, 2009.] http://www.npi.gov.au/database/substance-info/profiles/78.html#environmentaleffects.
4. AP. China Daily. [Online] 08 04, 2006. [Cited: 04 10, 2009.] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2006-08/04/content_657551.htm.
5. NOAA. National Ocean Service. National Ocean Service. [Online] 11 21, 2003. [Cited: 04 10, 2009.] http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/weeklynews/supp_nov03.html.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Global Incident Map - Customerised Version for Sri Lanka Launched!!!!

A customerised version of the http://www.globalincidentmap.com/ for Sri Lanka is now available at http://sri.globalincidentmap.com/.

This map was created by the http://www.globalincidentmap.com/ team as an encouraging response to the Sri Lanka Incident Map which was publisehd in http://www.safersrilanka.com/.

The author of http://www.safersrilanka.com/ got to know about the http://www.globalincidentmap.com/ during his study tour to Hawaii as a memebr of Community Tsunami Early-warning Centre (CTEC).

A big thank you for Morgan Clements, Publisher of GlobalIncidentMap.com and the technical experts of the team for the fantastic work!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Civilians Safety Zone established.

A new Civilian Safety Zone (CSZ), has been declared with effect from Thursday (Feb 12) by the Sri Lankan The Sri Lankan security forces, in response to the worsening plight of the thousands held hostage by LTTE terrorists in Mullaittivu.

The new 12km long safe region demarcated along the Mullaittivu western coast is expected to facilitate flow of humanitarian aid and medical supplies for the people stranded with LTTE. The International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) has duly been informed of the new safe zone, defence sources reported.

Visit : http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090212_09 for the full story.

Stampede in South Korea - A Lesson for Sri lanka too

At least four people were killed and 30 injured after a fire triggered a mountaintop stampede during a traditional festival in southeastern South Korea, where 15,ooo people have gathered.
"Many mountain climbers who were observing the event are believed to have fallen off a cliff on the mountain after the blaze caused them to run and scatter," siad sp a police officer.

Such incidents give Sri Lanka a lesson about the danger of stampede in mass gatherings, especially in high security environment of the country. The planners of such events, should pay necessary attention to prevent such calamities.

Australian Bush Fires - Rootes in Climate Change?

"The terrible events of the past couple of weeks are, without doubt, partly the result of global warming and the greenhouse effect," says Neville Nicholls, an expert on climate change and wildfires at Australia's Monash University.

The bushfires devastaged at least 173 lives while destroying achres of forest and many property. The drought and heat waves passing through Australia have aggravated the condition.

It is estimated that the average temperature in Australia may rise by 3 degrees celcius by 2020.

Whle bushfires devastated Queensland, floods have been reported in Victoria causing floods, indicating the complexity iof climate change.

Visit http://www.usatoday.com/weather/climate/globalwarming/2009-02-11-global-warming-australia-wildfires_N.htm?csp=34 for the full article.

Picture Credit: By William West, AFP, Getty

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sri Lanka Incident Map


40 Emergency Treatment Units established in Central Porvince

40 Emergncy Treatment Units (ETU) have been established in district and rural hospitals, says Central Provincial Director of health Services, Dr. (Mrs) Shanthi Samarasinghe. These units are intended to provide Emergency Treatment for patients before being transferred to specialised hospitals. Patients admitted with snake bites, poisonning, attacks of wheezing and heart attacks are amongst many others who will benefit from these units. The Provincial Director furthur stated that there are plans to expand the project to all the 225 Dsitrict and Rural Hospitals in the province.

2 New Seismographs to be Established

Two new stations equipped with modern seismographs to monitor seismic activity in Aisa will be established in Hakmana and Mahakanadara Wewa areas, states Dr. N.A. Wijayananda, the Chairman of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB). These stations will function in addition to the Pallekele Seismic Station. These stations will be constructed with German assistance. The project is a collaboration between GSMB and Ministry of Environemnt and Natural Resources.

19 fleeing civilians dead after terrorist attack.



19 civilians have been killed and 75 others wounded this morning by the LTTE terrorists in Udayarkattukualam this morning (Feb 10). 2 children , 5 women , and 12 males succumbed to death. Another 28 children , 30 women and 17 men have suffered injuries. Mean while Sri Lankan forces have been able to secure 1046 Tamil civilians fleeing from Wanni.


Critically injured have been airlifted to Anuradhapura and Vavuniya hospitals while others were cared for at field first aid station at the rescue point itself.


Picture Credit www.defence.lk

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sri Lanka Incident map


175 million Children will suffer due to Climate Change in 10 years!

Recent climate change studies suggest a series of alarming predictions:

  • a five degree increase in temperature by 2080;
  • risk of hunger for some 50 million people by 2010;
  • risk of flooding for millions of people in Asia;
  • an increased toll on countries already with high degrees of poverty;
  • an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes;
  • more extensive droughts in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • more variable and extreme climatic events in general.
In the Humanitarian Action Report 2009, with reference to a study, UNICEF states that children and women represent 65 per cent of all those who will be affected by climate related disasters every year in the next decade. Out of this, 175 million will be children.
Disaster risk-reduction measures including early warning, preparedness and response systems for national disasters – and thereby strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities are crucial to meet these challenges, says UNICEF.

Furthur, it was mentioned that in 2007, an estimated 850 million people suffered from undernutrition compared to nearly 950 million by now. Between May 2007 and May 2008, the food price index rose by 50 per cent, making it impossible for many families to afford basic foods for their children. While higher food prices will render children vulnerable to starvation and disease, its influence does not stop there. Higher food prices also increase the vulnerability of children in protracted conflicts caused by political disasters and HIV/AIDS. When families can’t afford basic food for their children they are often forced to take extreme measures, resorting to child labour and early marriage with greater frequency. At the same time, school attendance is likely to fall hence the learning capacity and future earning capacity as an adult will be lost .
Visit http://www.unicef.org/har09/index.html for the full report.

Severe Shortage of Water - Deraniyagala

Deraniyagala Town and surrounding villages are experiencing severe shortage of water, as a consequence of two month long drought. As the water supply scheme is still under construction , the local authorities are provining drinking water to the communities.

Environment Observation Centre at Muttettuwegama

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in collaboration with the Coastal Conservation Department has established an Enviornment Observation Centre in Muttettuwegama in Galle District. This 33 million Rs. programme aims at protecting the environment, providing education to school children, providing research facilities for local and foreign University students and developping the tourism sector. It is hoped that the project will benefit the communities of Mettettuwegama and nearby villages.

Suicide bomb attack at IDP rescue centre - Kilinochchi

A woman suicide bomber attack killed at least 29 people including 8 civilians and injured 64 others including 40 civilians. This occurred in a IDP rescue centre, North of Visuamadu in Mullaittivu this morning (Feb 9) at around 11.30 a.m. For more details visit: http://www.mod.lk/

Over 8000 Civilians fleeing to government controlled areas: Medical teams deployed

It has been reported that the 8000 plus civilians have come to government controlled areas. Malaria, respiratory tract infections and injuries are affecting them. The Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition has decided to dispatch several medical teams to Nellikulam, Chettikulam and Manikfarm welfare villages where the IDPs are resettled.

World’s Largest River basins under threat! Says, UN report

Climatic change and inadequate corporation among countries have put some of the world’s largest river basins under threat,affecting 750 million people, stated UN report which was examining the state of freshwater resources in selected major river basins in South Asia. This report “Freshwater Under Threat: South Asia,” identifies key threats to water resources development and management and assesses the challenges the region faces in coping with threats.
South Asia, though home to one fourth of the global population, has access to less than five percent of the planet’s freshwater resources.
Visit http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=29797&Cr=Water&Cr1=climate+change for full story.

ICRC Sri Lanka requested to work with government to save civilians.

Dr. H.A.P. Kahandaliyanagae, Secretary to the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition, requested the ICRC to work with the government to save the lives and health of the civilians. He further stated that the government is trying to protect the civilians and the patients who are strained due to the conflict. The Health Secretary expressed these ideas in a letter to ICRC Sri Lanka.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gajamituro to end Human Elephant Conflict

  • Safer Sri Lanka has received a number of elephant human conflict incidents during the first half of January alone. Elephants are essentially a vital element of our culture. Sri Lanka has been famous for elephants in the history. In addition, wild elephants have added so much glamour and beauty to our forests.

    However, human-elephant conflict is a well known problem that Sri Lanka has faced with the development. It is said that with the liberation of the East, the number of elephant human conflicts have gone up due to more inhabitance of these areas by humans.

    Ele-facts…….

    Latest wild Life Conservation Report has stated that 2241 elephants have died as a result of shooting, unknown reason, electrocution, poisoning, accidents and other causes from 1900 to 2007.

    The current elephant population is estimated only to be 3500-4000.

    More than 860 human lives have been lost due to human-elephant conflict between 1992-2007.

    3103 properties have been damaged between 1992-2007.

    A new programme called "Gajamituro" (Friends of Elephants) has been launched in collaboration with the Wild Life Conservation Department and Nation Building Ministry Ministry.

For the full article refer the Editorial of Daily News, 17th January 2009.
http://www.dailynews.lk/

Picture Credit: © 2007 MSNBC.com / Feb. 16, 2007

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Online Citizen Registration...E-volution should start some where!

Some persons have raised their concerned about the accessibility of computers and internet for online registration in Sri Lanka. It is true that internet is not a commodity that is available at every house hold, however, this should not restrict us from taking the benefits of this very strong tool for the development of the country. We should not wait for the technology to come and knock at our door step, instead we should go for it. Online citizens registration thus will promote the use of internet and make citizens aware of the technological developments in the world.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Disaster Management Job and Project Opportunities....

Safer Sri Lanka will publish two sections with Disaster Management realted job and programme related opportuniteis, from today onwards.
Hope this will be of use for those of you who are interested in Disaster Management field.
In addition, if you have any job or project opportuniteis to be published in Safer Sri Lanka, please forward them to novil.wijesekara@gmail.com.

Disaster Management Project Opportunities

Agency: Disaster Management Centre/United Nations Development Porgramme
Type of Opoortunity: Call for Expression of Interest
Project: Disaster Risk Reduction Approach for Floods in Ampara, Batticaloa and Polonnarwa Districts
Dead Line: 2009 January 2009, by 2.00 p.m.
Advertisement: Daily News. Thursday, January 2009, Page 25.

Disaster Management Job Opportunities

Vacancies - Disaster Management Centre
Post: Deputy Director Finance
Dead Line: 26th January 2009
Advertisement:Daily News, Thursday, January 15th, 2009, page Xii

A long term plan to manage the Coconut Leaf Diseases in Sri Lanka ….

“Leaf Rot Disease” and “Weligama Leaf Wilt Disease” have affected large number of coconut trees in the Southern Province. These diseases are found in Matara District, Galle District ( Habaraduwa and Galle AGA Divisions) and Hambantota District (Walasmulla, Beliatta and Tangalle AGA Divisions).

“Leaf Rot Disease” is a fungal infection infecting the bud leaves, first reported from Weligama in 2000. As the name implies, it involves the rotting of the leaves along with crown reduction, yield reduction and death of the palm in 3-5 years. Fungicides were initially useful, how ever, later became ineffective as the chemical needs to be applied to the bud region.

“Weligam Leaf Wilt Disease is caused by a group of organisms called phytoplasma, which lives in the phloem tissue. The organism affect palms affected by leaf rot disease and other diseases. This is not a lethal disease, how ever, reduces palm vigor and yield.

An extensive programme has been implemented by the Coconut Research Institute to conbat these aggressive pathogens. These are the key strategies of the plan:
1. Maintenance of a disease free boundary and improve quarantine measures.
2. Manage plants in the centre area- As it is not practical to destroy all the coconut plants in the affected area, only the unproductive and aged plants will be removed in a phased manner.
3. Establishment of alternative/inter crops – This is intended to help the farmers cope with the fincancial losses due to the diseases.

In addition, the Coconut Research Institute is conducting research to produce resistant coconut varieties.

Based on a lecture by Dr. L.C.R. Fernando, Coconut Research Institute.

38 automated Weather Monitoring Stations to be established islandwide...

The Department of Meteorology of Sri Lanka has taken measures to establish 38 automated weather stations in the country. This project has been undertaken with the funding of JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency).

In addition, a Doppler Radar System will be established with the funding of the Government of Sri Lanka. This system will help the tracking of weather systems such as cyclones and thunder storms.

20 automated rain gauges will also be established in Kalutara, Gampaha and Ratnapura Districts.

Crashed US Airway Plane lands in a River: All lives safe!


US Airway Plane 1549 which was heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, crashed in New York Thursday (15/01/2009), how ever all of the lives of the 148 passengers and 5 crew members have been saved. The plane departed from the La Guardia Airport at 3.26 p.m. and had a sudden landing after five minutes in the Hudson River. The plane was submerged for some time in the river, and was shifting southwards, from which the passengers were rescued by ferries and life guards. Divers from US Police also helped the rescue efforts.

The possible cause for this accident has been striking with a flock of birds which has caused a power loss from both engines. This incident, which was a near escape of another great tragedy, has been a miracle, only due to the correct and rapid decision making ability of the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger III, who wanted to avoid a densly populated area in landing, as well as the nearness of the rescue boats, coupled with the successful search and rescue workers.



Visit International Herald Tribune for the full story.
http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/15/america/15crash-FW-408934.php

Picture Credit :Reuters

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Largest Influx into government controlled areas....

Largest number of civilians from the LTTE controlled areas have been reported on the 14th, 655 in number. They arrived in Kevil and Murusamudai areas. People have walked or used boats to arrive. Emergency needs such as food, water, shelter and health care facilities have been provided to them, saya the Sri Lankan Forces. A sharp increase is expected in civilians in near future.

Visit www.dailynews.lk for the full report.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sri Lanka Incident Map 11-13 January 2009


Short Codes for Public Safety and Convenience…

The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka announces 6 charge free and 9 normal call charge short codes for public safety and convenience.

The total free 3 digit codes are as follows:

110 Fire Services in Colombo Municipality
Colombo Municipal Council Fire Unit
Kandy Municipal Council Fire Unit
Search and Recue and transport of patients in Galle and Kurunegala
Karapitiya Teaching Hospital
Kurunegala Teaching Hospital
114 Operation Commander – Colombo – for Security matters
115 Colombo Municipal Council – for sanitary and other services needing prompt attention
116 Sri Lanka Air Force – for informing about Suspected Air Crafts
118 Ministry of Defence, Public Security and Law and Order
119 Sri Lanka Police Department

The normal charge 4 digits short codes are as follows:

1900 Telecommunications Regulatory Commission
1912 Ministry of Tourism
1919 Government Information Centre
1920 Ministry of Agricultural Development
1929 Child Help Line Call Centre, Ministry of Child Development and Women Empowerment
1939 National Water Supplies and Drainage Board
1954 Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruptions
1973 Sri Lankan Airlines Limited
1991 Ministry of Environmental and natural Resources

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chikungunya…that which bends up

Chikungunya is a mosquito borne viral disease. Around 3500 cases of Chikungunya have been reported from Ratnapura, Kalmunai, Polonnaruwa and Monaragala districts during the recent epidemic (December 2008/January 2009).
The infective agent is Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV), which belongs toalpha-virus under Toga viridae family. It is an "Arbovirus"(Ar-arthropod,bo-borne).It was first isolated form the blood of a febrile patient in Tanzania in 1953 and was first reported from Sri Lanka in 1969. Cyclical appearance of epidemics and becoming silent sometimes for decades is a characteristic of this infection. The first epidemic of Chikungunya was reported from Colombo and Kalutara in 2006.
This viral infection is spread by mosquitoes Aedis aegypti and Aedis albopictus, the same vectors of Dengue Fever. Aedis aegypti is the principal vector of Chikungunya. This is a household container breeder and aggressive day time biter. Aedis albopictus in Asia, and other varieties of mosquitoes in Africa also contribute to the spread of this epidemic. Mosquitoes get infected when they feed on a blood meal of an infected person. Similarly, when the infected mosquito bites another human being, the virus may be transmitted. The incubation period or time from infection to illness is 2 to12 days, however, it is usually 3 to 7 days.
One should suspect Chikungunya if the following symptoms are there:
  • High Fever.
  • Joint pains: many joints are often affected.
  • Rash.
  • Nausea, vomiting and headache.

It should be noted that the differentiation of Dengue fever and Cikungunya at initial stages can be difficult. Unlike dengue fever, Chikungunya does not kill people, except the very old and those with preexisting morbidities. However, this illness can make a patient suffer sometimes for months, due to handicapping joint pains.

There is no specific treatment for Chikungunya. You should drink a lot of fluids and take pain killers for pain. If the symptoms are severe after a considerable duration of time, a specialist may decide on starting long-term anti inflammatory therapy.

Chikungunya can be prevented through the following strategies:

  • Risk communication to the public with the use of mass media and community members.
  • Control of mosquito breeding sites.
  • Preventing mosquito human contact.
  • Strengthening the epidemiological surveillance.
  • Fogging at selected locations with Malathion, kills adult mosquito population, of limited value.

Chikungunya, as Dengue fever, is a result of unsustainable development. Unplanned town development and poor solid waste management systems have provided ample breeding grounds for the mosquitoes. Chikungunya epidemics should be an eye opener to all Sri Lankans to initiative a positive trend towards a Safer Sri Lanka.

Don’t waste water! Warns water board….

The National Water Supplies and Drainage Board warned that it may have to restrict water supply to the Colombo City and it’s suburbs due to the drought situation and seepage of salt water to the Kelani Ganga intake area.

The condition has been aggravated due to the high water consumption in the current dry weather. In addition, unsafe use of drinking water for non-urgent activities such as washing vehicles and watering plants has contributed to this.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Unsafe Railway Crossing - Time to Rethink....


Within last few weaks, Safer Sri Lanka received reports of two accidents from occuring at railway crossing in Negombo: one of them killing five from the same family and the other a near miss for two.


Sri Lanka has a sad history of accidents occuring at unsafe Rail Way crossings, some times exploding into mass fatality incidents. Well-desciplined pedestrians and motorists have a big role in preventing such tragic incidents. However, creating of safe Railway crossing is equally important, as people often do not respect railway crossing much.


Thus it is important to use as many methods as possible to prevent rail Way Crossing Accidents such as warning signs, rail gates, alarming bells, and alarming lights. It is equally important that rail drivers also take additional care when driving through railway crossings.


The good news about Railway Crossing accidents is that they can be prevnted but the bad news is that we often forget that!


Photocredit: Wikipedia

Coastal Consultants Wanted!!!!! North East Coastal Community Development Project

The North East Coastal Community Development Project (NECCDP) has advertised their need to obtain the consultancy of experts for Technical Studies under the Resource Management in Three Specail Management Areas and Coastal Resource Planning. This is a porject by the Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development.

Refer: Daily News 12 January 2009, for the advertisement.
webpage: http://www.dailynews.lk/

Anticipating a mass exodus of civilians...

The Government of Sri Lanka is anticipating a mass exodus of civilians from the LTTE controlled areas in the near future. The authorities said that they are making prepeartions to receive and provide essential services to such crowds. Vavuniya will serve as a humanitarian hub for such citizens.

7 fleeing civilians loose their lives...

7 civilians including 2 children fleeing from Murusumuddai East and Kanchipuram in Vavuniya District belonging to the LTTE controlled areas have lost their lives following attacks by the LTTE , reported Sri Lanka Army. This incident occured on 10th Saturday 2009, in Nothern Wanni. 183 civilians have come to the areas under control by the governemnt. Around 200 civilians have come to government controlled areas for security during the last few days.

Citizen registration on-line!!!!!


Citizen registration through http://www.citizens.lk/ is now functional. Mobile units and governemnt institutions ( will be informed later) and government IT centres such as Nenasala will help the general public to provide their information and to obtain registration.



You need to sumbit the following details for the registration:



1. Number of people living in the house hold.

2. Adress.

3. Date of birth of residents.

4. National Identity card, passport and driving liscence number.

5. Contact details: office, land and mobile numbers and email address.

6. Details of non permanent residents.



There is no deadline or hard and fast rules for registration, so you can register at your convenience.



Visit http://www.citizens.lk/ for your online registration now!



Photocredit: www.nickhalstead.com/wp-content/computer-user.jpg

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sri Lanka Incident Map 04 -08 Janaury 2009


Drowning in Kelani River - Urgent Action Needed to Safeguard Life…..

Another death has been reported in the Sri Lanka incident map due to drowning in the Kelani River in Yatiyanthota. Every year 8-10 people loose their lives while bathing in Kelani River in the Yatiynathota Medical Officer of Health area. Many of the diseased are strangers to the area and they do not know the dangerous spots of the Kelani River. These deaths peak during the Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) season when pilgrims take unnecessary risk of bathing in unprotected places. Often the drowned people have been under the influence of alcohol.

The dangerous spots need to be identified with the support of the local community and warning boards need to be established . However, this is not easy as many of the river side hoteliers and small scale boutiques depend on river bathers for their income and they fear that such boards will hinder their business.

Considering the high frequency of the incidents, an urgent mechanism needs to be created to identify hot spots. GIS can be used to map hot spots. The identified hot spots need to be communicated to the bathers. In addition, life savers could be identified or trained from the affected community to search and rescue affected people. The collaboration of the District Disaster Management Coordinator, the District Secretariat, Police, Medical Officer of Health and the local community is mandatory in this regard.



Picture credit:


Kelani river: http://www.re-teoh.com/, warning sign :www.recmanagement.com

Chickungunya Outbreak – Monaragala and Polonnaruwa

1300 patients have been reported from Monaragala during the current epidemic and 1106 from Embilipitiya in Ratnapura District and 200 from Polonnaruwa, as per 10.01.2009.

Legislation Granting Citizenship approved by Parliament

Sri Lankan Parliament has decided to grant Sri Lankan Citizenship to28,500 stateless Tamils of Indian Origin. Ammendments were made to two bills and the house passed them without a vote. According to the pre-existing provisions of “Granting of Citizenship to Stateless Persons Act of 1964”, Tamils of Indian Origin had to stay for 30 years in the country to obtain citizenship.

Registration of Citizens can be done online now.....

Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order has launched a programme to register all citizens of Sri Lanka. It is mandatory for all Sri Lankan citizens to register under this scheme.
This can be done easily through the website www.citizens.lk

visit www.citizens.lk to register online now!!!!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Appeton Weight Gain, helping underweight Sri Lankans or Overweight Food Industry?

"Appeton Weight Gain to help the underweight Sri Lankans" was the heading of an advertisement appeared in the Daily News of January 8, 2009, promoting the above formula for adults and children.

Undernutrition is undoubtebdly a serious health problem in Sri Lanka. On average 1 in 3 of children are undernurished. This has given rise to many health problems, with longterm complications. Povery and nutritional myths are amongst the main contributors for malnutrition.


"The issue of weight gain is very much misunderstood in Sri lanka," the above article says, how ever, I am very concerned if the above product promoter undersatnds the issue of weight gain in Sri Lanka at least partially. According to the above article, chidren are underweight due to "poor appetite". The reasons given for "poor appetite" are illness, deprssion, long term medication and deficiency of vitamins and minerals.


Any health personal who has worked in this country, know the real causes for undernutrition among children and adults. Poverty is the number one cause for underweight. Research have clearly shown that malnutrition is more prevelant among poor communities. In addition, a whole range of nutritional myths contribute to malnutrition. Social issues such as alcohol consumption and inabiltiy to choose nutritious food with the avilable resources are two causes for malnutrition.
In the above advertisement, the product has been promoted as a miraculous formula which helps you to gain.. gain .. and gain more weight. It gives a list of pseudoscientifc justifications which have not been referenced to clinically proven data. We compared the nutritional value of an egg (50g) with 50g of Appeton Weight Gain.














From the above table, it is clear that there is nothing magical for one to spend for Appeton Weight Gain instead of one or two eggs per day! Considering the sky high price of the product cannot be afforded by majority of Sri lankans who are underweight.

Appeton Weight Gain spends huge amounts of money on promotional activities ranging from painting buses with advertisements to providing general practitioners with Appeton sponsored name borads through direct to consumer advertising as the one discussed hear. The fact is that this product or any other of similar kind will not help underweight peple or children to gain weigt but definitely help food inductry to gain...gain... and gain more profit!

The promotor is confusing the reader with two issues: the product as an appetitie stimuliser and the product as a nutritiously miraculous product. The issue is whehter appetite stimulants can be promoted to the consumers directly.

This is another good exmple of how food industry deceives their customers. Safer Sri Lanka raised concerns over "Actign E" few months ago. Legal action has been filed against the above adverteisement.
It is high time that Sri Lankan food and drug regulatory mechanism raise their voice to stop this unsceintific therefore unethical promotion.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

DOTS, the missing componenet.....

Tubercolosis is a disease with a a heavy global burden. it is an illness of the poor, marginalised and the vulnerable. Every year, 8 million new cases of Tuberculosis are reported. 95% of them occur in developping countries. 2 million people die every year due to Tuberculosis.

Directly Observed Treatment Shortcurse (DOTS), is the only proven effective means by which 85% cure rate can be achieved on a programme basis. DOTS is a systemic strategy with five components:
  1. Political Commitment: Tuberculosis cna be cured! Thus governments are demanded for assigning necessary priority and allocating essential resources for Tuberculosis control.
  2. Good Quality Diagnosis: Highly sensitive, specific yet affordabletest for Tuberculosis diagnosis is sputum smear microscopy.
  3. Good Quality Drugs: The weapon that changed the course of deadly tuberculosis disease was good quality drugs. All people should have access to quality, effective and safe anti-tuberculosis drugs at affordable prices to cure themselves.
  4. Short-course Chemotherapy given under direct observation: A non health wroker or trained person who is not a family member observes the patient swallowing the drugs. It shifts the responsability for cure from patient to the health care system.
  5. Systematic monitoring and accountability: Every Tuberculosis patient needs to be recorded and followed up. This is the key to enhancing public acceptance of the programme and the prevention of emergence of Multi-Drug Resistance (MDR) Tuberculosis.

However, I am of the opinion that DOTS is missing a very important sixth component, that is the need to address Stigma aggressivelt. Tuberculosis patients have to interact with many groups of people, when a patient is diagnosed as TB, he or she is often stigmatised. The fact is that a ptient who is taking anti-TB drugs becomes non-infectious within 2 weeks with modern drugs. We interact with many undiagnosed Tuberculosis patients daily, who are infecting others but not taking drugs. Tuberculosis is accepted as a disease with unbelievable loads of stigma. Infact, patients have to fight two lethal organisms simultaniously, namely Mycobacterium tubercolosis and Social stigam lethalis! Expensive behavioural change communication programmes have been conducted to reduce the social stigma of Tuberculosis, however, we recently discovered a massive load of stigma towards Tuberculosis amongst a fairly educated crowd of officials. Is it that the media driven promotional campaign is not reaching the grass root level or should we refine the message in a more socially acceptable manner? It is high time that we hunt for this very important yet missing component of DOTS strategy.

Mr. Lasantha Wickramathunga passes away....

Sunday Leader Editor Mr. Lasantha Wickramathunga succumbed to injuries caused by two unknown gunmen in Aththidiya, in the suberbs of Colombo.
He was rushed to Colombo South Teaching Hospital(CSTH), Kalubowila. An additional special team of medical specialists were summoned from the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL).

Government of Sri Lanka Bans LTTE

The Government of Sri lanka has proscribed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with effect from 7th January 2009 Midnight.
This was in accordance with a memorandum submitted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, under Chapter 40 of the Public Security Ordinance.
Some reasons given by the government for the above ban are:
  1. Committing acts of terrorism and other forms of violence.
  2. Engaging in armed conflict with the government forces and police.
  3. Threatening the sovereignity and territorial integrity of the country.
  4. Aim of establishing a seperate state within Sri lanka.
  5. Using civilians as hostage and a human shield.
  6. Using child soldiers.
LTTE is proscribed in 31 countries, including India, USA, UK, Canada, Australia and France.

visit www.dailynews.lk for more details.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sri Lanka Incident Map 04-06 January 2009


Emerging Infections Diseases…We got to prepare!!!!!

Infectious diseases are probably old as human civilization. Developing countries suffer mostly from infectious diseases while the developed countries suffer mostly from non-communicable diseases. The countries in developmental transition like Sri Lanka have faced a double burden of diseases, both infections and non-communicable.

In the World Health Organization definition of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the following categories can be identified:

1. Diseases of infectious origin whose incidence in humans has increased within the recent past or threatens to increase in the near future.
2. Infections that appear in new geographic areas or increase abruptly.
3. New infectious diseases and those which are re-emerging after a period of quiescence

Over the last 30 years, 30 new pathogenic organisms have emerged. SARS, Avian Influenza, Nipah virus, Chandipura and dengue fever are some of the infections that have emerged in the Asian region in the recent past.Chickungunya epidemic that has been reported from many parts of Sri Lanka during the last few years is another example of a newly emerging infectious disease. Other examples of newly emerging infectious diseases include Hepatitis C, Guanarito virus,
Encephalitozoon hellem, New species of Babesia, Vibrio cholerae O139, Bartonella henselae, Sin nombre virus,
Encephalitozoon cunculi, Sabia virus, HHV-8, HIV/IADS and Multi Drug Resistant TB.


It can be stated that Asia will be the epicenter of future outbreaks of emerging infections, due to the socioeconomic and environmental background and the weak health infrastructure facilities.

Urbanization, population expansion and poverty leading to poor living conditions, poor health infrastructure, environmental degradation and climate change are some of the contributory factors for the emergence of such infections diseases.

The developing countries will suffer most from such emerging infectious disease outbreaks, however, the whole world will eventually have to suffer, especially in the current inter dependent global economic system.

WHO has identified five strategic elements that are needed to combat emerging
diseases. These include:
(1) Epidemic preparedness and rapid response
(2) Public health infrastructure
(3) Risk communication
(4) Research and its utilization
(5) Advocacy for political commitment and partnership building
(6) Epidemic preparedness and rapid response

The risk of use of infectious agents as biological weapons cannot excluded, given the extremely fragile geopolitical relations in the Asian Region. This should be another very valid reason for Asia to prepare for such epidemics.

Reference: http://www.searo.who.int/LinkFiles/Avian_Flu_combating_emerging_diseases.pdf