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India to deploy Sri Lanka medics

[BBC, Friday, 6 March 2009 13:37 No Comment]

India is to send a medical team to aid north-eastern Sri Lanka’s conflict zone, providing humanitarian relief and emergency care to displaced civilians.

It is the first time there has been an Indian presence at the war zone since a peacekeeping mission pulled out of Sri Lanka in 1990.


India says that the team will arrive on 9 March.


Meanwhile UN head Ban Ki-moon has strongly deplored the mounting civilian death toll in the conflict.


‘Speedy end’

A statement released by the Indian High Commission in Colombo said that the team would establish an emergency medical unit, including a hospital, at Pulmodai, near the north-eastern town of Trincomalee.


The medical team will consist of eight physicians and surgeons as well as paramedic and technical staff.


Correspondents say this will be the first Indian presence in north-eastern Sri Lanka since its three-year peacekeeping mission to the island nation came to an end in 1990 after the loss of about 1,200 Indian troops.


India did send medical help to parts of Sri Lanka after the Asian tsunami in December 2004.


Meanwhile UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeated his call to the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to suspend hostilities to allow time for civilians to leave the conflict zone.


Mr Ban said there was an urgent need to bring the conflict in north-eastern Sri Lanka to a speedy end without further loss of civilian life.


It is estimated that between 70,000 and 200,000 civilians are caught up in the conflict.


Aid agencies say hundreds of civilians, including children, have been either killed or injured in the fighting in recent months. Both sides deny they are responsible.


Mr Ban also called on the Tigers to remove their weapons and fighters from civilian areas, co-operate in humanitarian efforts and immediately stop recruitment of children.


The UN chief’s comments came hours after the Sri Lankan government said it was planning to open two new safe routes in the north-east for civilians to leave the conflict zone.

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