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Sri Lanka: shifting concerns

25-01-1996 News Release 96/3

Following the fall of Jaffna to the Sri Lankan army in early December, the ICRC's main area of humanitarian concern has shifted east to the Batticaloa region. Once again, the civilian population has been caught up in a spiral of violence despite repeated representations by the ICRC to both sides, reminding them of their obligation under international humanitarian law to show due respect for all non-combatants.

Up to 300,000 people are still seeking a place of refuge to the south of Jaffna while delegates have not to date been able to assist the several thousand people displaced in the government-held area west of the city. In recent months the ICRC has put much emphasis on providing clean drinking water to the displaced communities to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases in overcrowded areas. In its capacity as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC has provided hundreds of thousands of people with large quantities of medical supplies, food and other basic necessities, much of them supplied by the government.

The ICRC has stepped up its protection and tracing activities in the northern part of the island as a result of the high number of displaced people.

Finally, delegates are continuing their visits to detainees on both sides (some 2,000 were seen in 1995).