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ICRC distributes aid in the Vanni, assists Jaffna flood victims

[ICRC.org, Thursday, 11 December 2008 16:37 No Comment]

Sri Lanka: ICRC distributes aid in the Vanni, assists Jaffna flood victims

In the wake of renewed fighting in the Vanni region and severe flooding in and around Jaffna, the ICRC has been distributing aid, restoring clean water supplies and pressing ahead with its other activities for conflict victims.


Humanitarian aid donated by the Indian government reaches Vanni civilians

Displaced families in the Vanni region, which has been the scene of recent fighting, have begun receiving relief goods provided by the Indian government. The donation of 80,000 family parcels containing assorted food, hygiene items, bedding and clothing was handed over to the ICRC on 20 November. The food and hygiene items were distributed to nearly 40,000 displaced families in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts during the first weeks of December. The beneficiaries will receive the bedding and clothing in the coming days. Many families have been displaced several times by the fighting over recent months and are therefore in urgent need of help.

ICRC assists thousands displaced by floods

Thousands of people were affected by the hurricane and torrential rains that swept through Sri Lanka at the end of November. The district that was worst hit was Jaffna, where heavy rains caused flooding, disrupted access to clean water and damaged sewage systems.
At the request of the Jaffna authorities, the ICRC installed two water pumps and five tanks for storing clean water in the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. The ICRC also donated 14 barrels of chlorine to the Regional Health Service and Water Board for purification of contaminated water systems.
"We were concerned about a possible outbreak of water-borne disease," said Elena Ajmone Sessera, an ICRC representative in Jaffna. "That’s why we focused on providing clean water for health facilities and on improving the quality of potable water supplied to the population."

ICRC serving as neutral intermediary between government and LTTE

The intensifying armed conflict disrupted procedures at the Omanthai crossing point between territories held by the government and by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) throughout November. In spite of this, the ICRC facilitated the passage of 3,900 civilians, including 445 patients seeking treatment in Vavuniya hospital, and over 730 vehicles.
"Many people rely on safe passage between the territories held by the two parties to the conflict to have access to health care, and to be able to travel for family or work-related reasons. It’s also essential for humanitarian aid to be delivered. To make this possible, the ICRC has been adapting its working procedures to the changing situation on the ground on a daily basis," said Paul Castella, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Sri Lanka. "Simultaneously, the ICRC continues to facilitate talks between the government and the LTTE to agree on suitable longer-term arrangements for safe movement between the territories controlled by each of them."
The number of civilians using the crossing point has been dropping steadily since the ceasefire ended in January 2008. Between January and November 2008, more than 268,000 civilians and 32,000 vehicles passed through the Omanthai crossing point in both directions.
The ICRC currently escorts ambulances, civilian vehicles and humanitarian aid convoys through approximately 30 kilometres of no man’s land between government- and LTTE-held territories. During the month of November, ICRC staff also transported 95 bodies of fallen fighters through the crossing point.

Protecting civilians and persons held in connection with the conflict

The ICRC continues to monitor possible violations of international humanitarian law affecting civilians throughout the country. If needed, it makes representations to the authorities concerning missing persons, arbitrary arrests, under-age recruitment, unlawful killings and ill-treatment of civilians by weapon bearers. Allegations of violations collected from victims’ families are discussed confidentially with the parties to the conflict.
With the cooperation of government officials and the LTTE, the ICRC has been visiting a growing number of people arrested in connection with the armed conflict to monitor their treatment and conditions of detention. In November, ICRC delegates held private talks with more than 670 security detainees in over 60 government places of detention throughout the country and provided them with clothes, toiletries and recreational items. The ICRC covered the travel costs of the families of over 475 detainees, enabling them to visit their detained relatives.

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