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Sri Lanka: Help for displaced people on Jaffna Peninsula

06-04-2000 News Release 00/12

Hundreds of civilians on northern Sri Lanka's Jaffna Peninsula who fled the latest upsurge of fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) eight days ago have sought refuge in churches, temples, schools and empty houses in Jaffna, Point Pedro, Mirusuvil, Velvettiturai and other towns. Hundreds more have taken refuge with relatives and friends.

In conjunction with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and government authorities, the ICRC is monitoring the situation and assessing the needs of the population, in particular the wounded, sick and displaced.

Working in a volatile environment, the ICRC and the Sri Lankan Red Cross have distributed mats, bed sheets, towels, soap, jerrycans, buckets, cooking utensils and lanterns to 392 families (totalling 1,772 people), with the civilian authorities providing food aid. Ten civilians wounded by the fighting have been taken by the ICRC and National Society staff to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. The ICRC is continuing discussions with the warring parties to obtain security guarantees and access to civilians still in the conflict zone, in particular people who have reportedly fled their homes and are attempting to reach safer places.

The ICRC is reminding both the Sri Lankan security forces and the LTTE of their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the duty to spare combatants who have laid down their arms and to protect the civilian population from the effects of the fighting.

The ICRC sub-delegation in Jaffna has a staff of six expatriates and 35 Sri Lankans.