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Food And Fuel Shortages Hit After Renewed Fighting

Sri Lanka: Food And Fuel Shortages Hit North After Renewed Fighting, Unicef Reports

New York, Oct 27 2006 12:00PM

The 600,000 inhabitants of Sri Lanka’s Jaffna Peninsula, already buffeted by decades of conflict, are now facing food and fuel shortages as a result of a recent upsurge in fighting between Tamil separatists and Government forces, with many businesses closed due to security concerns, according to the latest update from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

“Many people have no work, and transportation into Jaffna is currently limited to air and sea,” UNICEF said in a report from the area. “In the town, queues form outside food shops. Although the government is continuing to bring in supplies by ship and has set up a rationing system, almost everyone talks about shortages of flour, rice, sugar and lentils. On the black market, sugar and petrol are now about four times their normal prices.

More than 50,000 people have been displaced across the peninsula by renewed fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and Government forces. “The majority have squeezed into the houses of relatives and friends,” UNICEF reported. “Others have gathered at temporary accommodation centres.”

The agency cited the experiences of one child. “A shell landed on our village and I was wounded in the leg,” Jeyapiria Jeyaratnam, 10, recalled. “I’ve seen a lot of fighting. I hear noises in the night and I’m very scared. I feel that a shell is going to fall here, and I get frightened when I hear about fighting on the radio.”

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Her mother, Mary Angaleena, said the family decided to sleep in a church when the shelling started. She was wounded as well, and the family was evacuated by ambulance. “We lost everything, even our clothes,” she said.

Jeyapiria now spends her time with other children at Our Lady of Refuge. She is in Grade 5 and said she’s disappointed she had to miss her exams because of the conflict. Children like Jeyapiria are registering for school and hope to start lessons soon.

UNICEF has been working with the government and other partners to support the families at the church and other centres in the area, creating spaces for children to play and take informal lessons.

Northeast of Jaffna town, in the Karaveddy area, 7,000 people have been displaced, two thirds of them living with host families. They fled fighting at the front line in the east. In one small village, four families with 11 children between them live together in a single-storey house.

“Food is the main problem,” said the owner of the house. “There’s not enough flour and rice, but everyone will stay here until the problem is solved.” Because of the security situation, the families are afraid to return to their village.


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