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Officials Need Better Access In Wartorn Sri Lank

UN Relief Officials Say They Need Better Access In War-Torn Areas In Sri Lanka

New York, Oct 18 2006 4:00PM

While supporting the Sri Lankan government’s relief efforts for some 204,000 people currently displaced in the north and east, who have fled their homes as a result of the escalating violence, the United Nations’ top emergency relief official said today there are serious concerns about lack of access to some areas, especially in the Tamil north.

“I have been shocked by the lack of access for relief agencies to civilian communities in many conflict areas,” Jan Egeland, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator said in a statement. “The parties should be reminded that they are under international legal obligations to enable unimpeded access to civilians in need of assistance irrespective of where they are or the circumstances under which they live.

Aid is beginning to get through. Over the last few days, officials have cleared some 7,500 litres of diesel fuel for transportation by the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC), along with medical supplies and UN relief items, including sleeping mats, jerry cans, soap, emergency health kits, and bed sheets.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has also managed to send a second convoy of 14 trucks carrying 230 tons of wheat flour to the north, after conducting a food security assessment in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts (Vanni) earlier this month – the first since the resumption of hostilities earlier this year.

“The United Nations and indeed the whole international community are watching the dramatic increase in violence in Sri Lanka with deep concern,” Mr. Egeland said. “All Sri Lankans benefited immensely from the cease-fire and the parties must now return to a cessation of hostilities and to resolving their differences at the negotiating table.

A nutritional survey, which is being carried out by health ministry and supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), started today in Kilinochchi district.

“All Sri Lankans should remember how we in the international community came to their relief after the tsunami. It will not be understood if the Tamil Tigers and the government now plunge their country into a man-made tsunami that can still be prevented,” added Mr. Egeland.

“The United Nations stands ready to help Sri Lanka in any way that the government and the parties to the conflict deem necessary to prevent violence and promote reconciliation.”

In addition, almost 16,000 Sri Lankans have entered India as refugees.

Ends

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