In 2004, Kattankudy, North Sri Lanka—one of the most densely populated areas in Southeast Asia—fell victim to one of the deadliest and most destructive tsunamis the world has ever seen. With 150,000 fatalities in over 11 countries and millions of victims left homeless, the world watched as South Asia, in one day, grew plagued with death, destruction and a severe lack of food, safe housing and clean drinking water.
While post-tsunami relief efforts quickly proliferated across the continent, devastation continued to tear a deep scar in areas like Kattankudy that can still be felt today. The calamity destroyed schools and hospitals, left 99 percent of Kattankudy’s well-water undrinkable and 350,000 homes in an unhealthy and unsanitary state. Without access to clean water or proper sanitation facilities, individuals in the region were forced to live in extremely unhygienic conditions and, in turn, grew vulnerable to serious health risks and water-borne diseases – problems the town struggles with today.
With long-term and pernicious challenges still facing many communities in Asia’s southeastern region, eight years later The Coca-Cola Company is continuing to support local communities and working to provide relief. Tapping into its vast arsenal of partnerships and sustainability expertise, Coca-Cola Sri Lanka partnered with the United Nations Development Programme to assess Kattankudy’s most crippling issues, put their brains together and conjure up a solution to the town’s widespread sanitation challenges.
In September 2011, the two organizations along with the Urban Council introduced Kattankudy to a suitable sewage and wastewater disposal system designed to prevent groundwater contamination and, thus, the spread of water-borne diseases. Created to provide healthy and sustainable infrastructure in this hyper-dense area, the water and sanitation initiative directly benefited over 2,000 individuals and 350 households. The project also gave way to several workshops and training sessions that educated families on general hygiene practices and maintenance of the sanitation and waste management system—valuable information the battered town needed to move forward.
Today, Coca-Cola and UNDP’s water and sanitation initiative has given new life to the Kattankudy community. The project recently earned the prestigious Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in Colombo “Best CSR Project 2012” award in the North/East Reconciliation category.
Coca-Cola Sri Lanka Country Manager, Kapilla Welmillage, receiving “Best CSR Project 2012” award.
The initiative, which was completed in 2011 and dedicated to the community by M.L.A. Muhammad Hizbullah, Deputy Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs, was also recognized by the President of Sri Lanka.
Appreciation letter from the Deputy Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs
But Coca-Cola didn’t stop there. The Coca-Cola Sri Lanka employee volunteer program also raised more than Rs. 3 million to renovate and refurbish Ward No. 6 of the Ragama Rehabilitation Hospital. The newly donated money reconstructed, repaired, cleaned, painted and stocked the ward with new treatment equipment, toilets and washrooms—efforts the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce awarded the Certificate of Merit.
Sri Lankan Minister of Economic Development and Minister of Health inaugurating the revamped ward at Ragama Hospital.
Coca-Cola Sri Lanka Team
Abhishek Jugran, Country Manager, Coca-Cola Sri Lanka and Maldives concluded that, “Coca-Cola is committed to building sustainable communities. Given the scale and size of our operations, we believe that we have a responsibility to serve our consumers and communities.”
And with the help of just one company with just one partnership, Coca-Cola did what it does best and gave an entire community the opportunity and vitality it needed to flourish and rebuild.
Samantha Witthuhn is a Public Affairs and Communications Intern at The Coca-Cola Company.