20 May 2009
Reuters / STR New / Courtesy www.alertnet.orgAlthough fighting appears to be over, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been pursuing efforts, so far without success, to reach the area of north-eastern Sri Lanka hard hit by the conflict.
Ros Armitage, British Red Cross conflict operations manager, said: “Unfortunately access to people who have been trapped in the conflict zone has been restricted and the ICRC is unable to obtain first-hand information about the needs of civilians and wounded people. Although thousands of civilians fled the area in the past days and weeks, we are extremely concerned about the wounded that have been left behind.”
Pierre Krähenbühl, ICRC director of operations, said: “Under international humanitarian law, the lives of all those who are not or are no longer fighting must be spared. Wounded and sick people must be collected and cared for immediately, and detainees must be treated humanely. This is all the more urgent since no humanitarian aid has reached those who need it for over a week.”
Sick and wounded civilians
The ICRC has proposed to the authorities that it help evacuate any remaining civilians from the area where fighting has been taking place, care for the sick and wounded, and provide emergency assistance for the displaced. The ICRC will seize any opportunity that presents itself to enter the area and assess the situation.
The last time the ICRC-chartered ferry was able to anchor off the embattled coastal strip in north-eastern Sri Lanka was 9 May. At that time, 516 patients and their carers were evacuated, while 25 metric tonnes of food and life-saving medical supplies were delivered.
At Padaviya and Manna hospitals, the ICRC has constructed shelters to accommodate an additional 500 beds. An ICRC surgical team is working in Mannar hospital. More efforts to expand the hospital capacities are under way.
According to government figures, there are around 250,000 displaced people currently located in different camps run by the government.
The ICRC, together with its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has been distributing drinking water, food, hygiene kits, baby-care parcels, household items and kitchen utensils to around 40,000 people located in the biggest camp, Menik Farm, near Vavuniya. Tents and tarpaulins are providing temporary shelter to around 17,000 people.
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