Highest ranking USAID official visits Jaffna

[TamilNet, Friday, 13 February 2004, 03:19 GMT]
Mr. Mark S.Ward, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Asia and Near East Bureau, US Agency for International Development (USAID), visited Jaffna Thursday to evaluate the progress of several USAID projects providing development assistance to the people of Jaffna, civil society sources said. Mr. Ward is the highest-ranking USAID official covering South Asia.

Mr. Ward visited the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation (JJCDR) in Jaffna town. Local women founded JJCDR, originally known as the Jaipur Foot Program, in 1987 to meet a growing need for services for war wounded and mine victims in Jaffna. JJCDR's multi-faceted program includes an artificial limb-fitting program, orthotics and metal workshops; a physiotherapy unit; counseling services and a hostel for beneficiaries with prosthetic fixures.

Close to a thousand people benefit from the services provided by JJDCR each year. USAID provides $ 500,000 annually to its island-wide disability support program, of which JJCDR is a beneficiary, the press release issued by the Embassy of the United States of America in Colombo states.

Additional text of the press release follows:

"At Karainagar island, off the west coast of the Jaffna peninsula, Mr. Ward handed over two catamarans to fishing societies as part of a USAID office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) project to help returnee fisherfolk regain their livelihoods. Fishing people in this area have been seriously affected by twenty years of conflict and security restrictions on coastal waters. In Karainagar island, about 85 percent of families have been traditionally engaged in fishing. After the ceasefire agreement was signed in February 2002 and fishing restrictions were lifted, hundreds of fishing families returned to the area. Unfortunately much of the basic equipment needed to sustain their livelihoods was destroyed.

USAID/OTI, through its small grants program, provided US 22,000 worth of fishing equipment and tools to the fishing societies of Karainagar, including 12 catamarans, seven outboard engines and nets, twine, wool, hooks and rope. These items are shared within the fishing community on a rotational basis. USAID/OTI's assistance to the six fishing societies will benefit 400 families.

Mr. Ward also visited another USAID/OTI program in Jaffna. At the zonal education department, he presented certificates of recognition to participants recently concluded English language enrichment program for secondary school teachers in the Jaffna district. An $ 8,000 grant funded 15 hour six-hour workshops for 70 teachers at the Regional English Support Centre in Jaffna. The workshops utilized audio visual aids and the latest teaching methods. Equipment such as televisions and videocassette recorders purchased for the training were gifted to the RESC for future seminars or workshop. This teacher training will benefit 8000 students in 65 area schools.

At the event, Mr. Ward said," It gives me great pleasure to be here in Jaffna as a representative of the US government to hand over certificates to the teacher trainers who made this USAID-supported program such a tremendous success. I know how greatly the people of Jaffna value quality education for their children, and how much the English language has for long been considered an essential part of such an education".

USAID/OTI's Sri Lanka Program assists in generating greater support for negotiated peace settlement that will end the long-standing conflict in Sri Lanka. To accomplish this goal, OTI aims to demonstrate tangible benefits of peace, increase the exchange of information and divers points of view on peace issues among various levels of society and communities, and reduce or prevent incidents of violence ion conflict-prone communities.

USAID/Sri Lanka works to improve democratic institutions and processes, promotes respect for human rights, and enhances economic growth and financial stability through market-oriented reforms," the press release concluded.


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