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Sri Lanka: Land route to Vanni reopens

10-12-1999 News Release 99/49

On 9 December a convoy under ICRC protection entered the Vanni through a newly opened checkpoint. The convoy was carrying 42 discharged patients injured in the Madhu church bombing, one Education Department officer, ICRC staff, four truckloads of medicine, question papers for students, UNHCR plastic sheeting and 300 bags of mail. Two Education Department officers, ICRC staff and 30 bags of mail were then carried out of the region.

As a result of the military operations in the north, the road to and from the Vanni had been closed since 1 November. Acting as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC had been facilitating the exchange of proposals between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with a view to finding a solution to this problem. The two parties agreed to reopen the road so that food, medical supplies and other essential items could be delivered to civilians living in the region.

Since the closure of the road, both parties had agreed to open it temporarily on two previous occasions for humanitarian purposes: on 4 December for the evacuation of eight patients from the Vanni and the return of 13 patients discharged from the Vavuniya hospital, and on 6December for the release of two soldiers detained by the LTTE.

After the road was closed the ICRC used boats to fulfil its humanitarian mandate. During the month of November three operations were carried out in order to transfer mortal remains, return soldiers released by the LTTE, bring in and take out question papers for students living in the Vanni and transport NGO personnel.