Sri Lanka – ICRC Bulletin No. 08 / 2007
20-12-2006 Operational Update
Latest report on ICRC activities in the field
In the past three weeks, renewed fighting between the government security forces (SLSF) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – there have been constant military operations and artillery exchanges in the Vakarai area of Batticaloa district and in the Kellar-Seruvilla area of Trincomalee district – has resulted in further casualties among civilians and in thousands of newly displaced families. Of the 35,000 displaced civilians trapped for the past three months by heavy fighting in Vakarai, about 15,000 have managed to flee the area and reach the government-controlled area in the southern part of the district. The displaced are presently being housed at 36 different sites and assisted by several humanitarian organizations as well as the Government of Sri Lanka. In the meantime, another 4,000 civilians have fled the fighting in the eastern part of Trincomalee district and reached the town of Kantale, where they are sheltering around the local schools and temples.
A 35-truck convoy, organized by the Sri Lankan Department of Essential Services in cooperation with the ICRC and the United Nations, reached Vakarai on 29 November with 250 tonnes of food, water and other items such as tents, hygiene kits and medicines for distribution to thousands of displaced people. On 11 December, the ICRC, working in cooperation with the Italian Red Cross, evacuated 30 injured civilians by boat from Vakarai to Valachenai hospital, a better-equipped facility in the government-controlled area. It has brought several injured civilians from Kellar town to Kantale Base Hospital, provided displaced families in Kantale with tents and hygiene kits and built water distribution points and sanitary faci lities. It has also provided assistance to thousands of displaced people in Batticaloa district, distributing tents and shelter construction material in several sites.
The ICRC continued to lend a hand to the health authorities in the North and East. In the past three weeks 27 seriously ill people, accompanied by their caretakers and doctors, have been flown from Jaffna Teaching Hospital to Colombo on board ICRC flights. Samples have been transported from Jaffna to Colombo for tests, and essential medical supplies, including medicines, vaccines and dressing materials, brought from Colombo to the teaching hospital and health services in Jaffna. In an effort to help the health authorities respond to the massive outbreak of chikungunya, the ICRC has donated more than 1,000 kg of urgently needed medicines in Jaffna. The donation included 500,000 tablets of paracetamol and other painkillers. Through the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS), the ICRC has lent support for the 10-day " Chikungunya and Dengue Control Days " campaign run by the health authorities in Kilinochchi. It has helped SLRCS volunteers in Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Jaffna conduct activities to promote health and prevent diseases, in particular chikungunya and dengue. It has also donated dressing and injection materials to Kantale Base Hospital, and continues to provide support to SLRCS mobile health teams in Batticaloa and Jaffna.
Water and habitat
Over the past few weeks, the ICRC has assisted more than 500 families who fled the fighting in Vakarai and sought shelter in the government-controlled area of Batticaloa district. It has provided displaced civilians at sites in Alankulam and Kiram with more than 350 tents and distributed construction material to build more than 300 shelters. It has built more than 40 latrines and sanitary facilities at the same sites, as well as several water distribution points. It is distributing more than 20 cubic metres of drinking water every day at each site.
In Kantale town, the ICRC has provided basic assistance in the past three weeks to more than 1,200 displaced people currently accommodated in six different sites near local schools and temples. The assistance included 720 hygiene kits, 300 tarpaulins and 600 jerry cans. In Batticaloa district, the ICRC, working with SLRCS volunteers, has distributed essential household items (sheets, mats, buckets, mosquito nets, pots and so on) to more than 80 families in Urugamam, Changaladi district, and provided 200 families in Alankulam and Urugamam with mats, jerry cans, hygiene kits and other essential household items. It has distributed 718 hygiene kits to displaced families sheltering in the Vakarai area, and 114 hygiene kits to about 400 civilians on Mandaithivu Island, in Jaffna. In addition, it has provided the health authorities with 16 tonnes of milk powder for all children in Jaffna aged between 1 and 5. In the Vanni, it has distributed kitchen sets, tarpaulins and mosquito nets to vulnerable people in Thirunagar and Thondamanagar, and 80 hygiene parcels in Mullaitivu district. Mosquito nets have been distributed for displaced babies in Kandavalai. In Kilinochchi district, 137 displaced families in Pesalai town have received 140 hygiene kits, 140 jerry cans, 140 mosquito nets, 30 rakes and several bottles of disinfectant.
Restoring family links
The ICRC has been cooperating clos ely with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society to help members of families separated by the conflict to restore and maintain contact with one another. Since 1 December 2006, it has collected 179 family messages and distributed 212.
The ICRC continues to visit people arrested for security reasons. In the past three weeks, delegates have registered or held private interviews with 294 detainees during 39 visits in 38 places of detention.
Families throughout the country continue to report abductions of relatives by persons unknown. The ICRC has been notified of 35 such cases in the past two weeks, and of 51 arrests. Its offices transported nine bodies in the past three weeks.
ICRC presence at crossing points
In the last three weeks, the ICRC has acted as a neutral intermediary to facilitate the crossing of some 10,000 civilians at Omanthai and Uyilankulam lines.
For further information, please contact:
Davide Vignati, ICRC Colombo, tel. +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 77 728 96 82
Vincent Lusser, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 217 32 64< /b>