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Sri Lanka: Emergency aid as fighting flares

22-05-1997 News Release 97/19

A large-scale military operation launched by the Sri Lanka armed forces on 13 May in the northern part of the island has resulted in a new wave of displaced people and a high number of casualties, mainly combatants belonging to LTTE and government forces. During the first few days of the hostilities the ICRC has been assisting some 1,800 displaced families by distributing emergency items such as plastic sheeting, cooking utensils and hygiene requisites. Six Sri Lanka Red Cross mobile health teams are taking care of the medical needs of the local and newly displaced population in the Vanni region affected by the fighting. The ICRC is supporting these teams and has provided medical supplies to the hospitals of Mallavi, Akkarayan and Mullaittivu to help them cope with the influx of wounded.

The offensive has entailed even greater hardship for an already conflict-stricken region: the number of displaced persons has increased sharply and access to food, medical assistance and other humanitarian essentials has been severely restricted. The ICRC, which already has a permanent presence in the Vanni with seven expatriates and 33 locally recruited staff, has set up a new office in Vavuniya, on the southern side of the front line. From there delegates are assisting the displaced persons in transit centres and people living in small villages which are cut off from basic services.