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Sri Lankan Food Aid Program Reaches 280,000 Civilians, UN Says

[Bloomberg, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 06:52 No Comment]

The United Nations said its food aid program reached 280,000 displaced civilians in Sri Lanka’s north since the army defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam three weeks ago, ending a 26-year civil war.

“Progress is being made,” the UN said on its Web site. More than 2.2 million metric tons of food has been delivered, 6,500 emergency shelters built and water and sanitation improved at refugee camps, it said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for aid workers to be given access to centers in the north after humanitarian groups said there were restrictions on vehicles entering camps. Aid workers have “been given ample access,” Sri Lanka’s Attorney-General Mohan Peiris told the UN in Geneva yesterday.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government said last month it intends to resettle all displaced people within 180 days and has appealed for international support to rebuild the war-torn region. The defeat of the LTTE ended its fight for a separate Tamil homeland in the north and east of the South Asian island.

Civilians who fled the fighting are housed in about 40 centers in the north. Water supplies for drinking and sanitation in the camps are at about 75 percent of needs, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Only about 40 percent of the $155 million needed for the emergency aid program has been received, the UN said.

People Resettled

Sri Lanka has reunited 10,000 people with their families since the end of the war, Peiris told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, according to an e-mailed statement from the country’s diplomatic mission there.

“Sri Lanka’s priority now is reconstruction, reintegration and rehabilitation,” Peiris said. “What is therefore required is constructive engagement by the international community in our efforts to achieve these objectives.”

Sri Lanka said last month it was disappointed that the Council held a special session on human rights in the country, after European nations called for an international inquiry into abuses during the war.

The Council didn’t include the call in its final resolution that supported Sri Lanka’s efforts to deal with displaced people.

Ban and Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, have said the government should allow an inquiry into alleged abuses. Pillay told the Council last month there are “strong reasons to believe” that the army and the LTTE carried out violations.

The LTTE is accused of preventing civilians from leaving the conflict zone, forcibly conscripting people and using civilians as human shields, Pillay said.

The government is suspected of using heavy weapons in a small, densely populated area even though it gave assurances it would protect civilians, she said. [Full Coverage]

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