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Sri Lanka: UN Calls For Aid Access

Sri Lanka: UN Agency Calls On Both Sides Of Conflict To Allow Urgent Aid To Get Through

Aid workers need access to deliver vital humanitarian supplies to thousands of Sri Lankan civilians who are running short of water and food after their communities were cut off by fighting between the Government and separatist Tamil Tigers, the United Nations refugee agency warned today.

“We and our partners are now seriously concerned about the welfare of civilians in areas inaccessible to humanitarian agencies because of strictly enforced travel restrictions, as fighting continues in the north and east,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR><"http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/news/opendoc.htm?tbl=NEWS&id=44e5ῤ34d2">UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva.

“UNHCR calls on the Sri Lankan Government and the rebel Tamil Tigers, or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), urgently to allow access for humanitarian aid workers so vital supplies can reach those in need, and to permit freedom of movement to all affected populations.”

With the closure of the A9 access road to the Jaffna peninsula through LTTE-controlled Kilinochchi District, supplies of food and water have fallen to alarmingly low levels in many locations, Ms. Pagonis said, adding this has also led to people hoarding food and merchants sharply hiking prices.

Some 15,000 to 20,000 people are now said to be displaced in Kilinochchi as a result of repeated artillery shelling and air strikes, and aid agencies are targeting their help to those displaced people – some 9,500 individuals – living outdoors or in communal buildings.

Coordinating its response with other groups, UNHCR has already distributed emergency relief items – kitchen utensils, pots and pans, towels, bed sheets, jerry cans, tarpaulins, mats, laundry soap and personal soap – to about 1,500 families there, giving priority to the most vulnerable people. But the agency has limited supplies because of the road restrictions.

Eastern districts face a similar crisis, with thousands of displaced families in Muttur, Eachchilampattu Divisions of Trincomalee District, and Vaharai Division in Batticaloa District, in desperate need of sustained humanitarian relief.

Since fighting flared up again in April, more than 162,200 people have fled their homes but remained within Sri Lanka, while 6,672 have crossed the Palk Strait to become refugees in India's Tamil Nadu state.

Ends

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