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Sri Lanka – ICRC Bulletin No. 12 / 2007

23-04-2007 Operational Update

Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

  ICRC assistance for displaced people in Batticaloa district  
 
With fighting continuing between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam around Thoppigala, in Batticaloa district, the number of casualties caused by deliberate attacks against civilians has sharply increased. In the past month, some 50 people have been killed and more than 60 injured as a result of two bomb attacks on civilian buses and several other violent incidents.
 
The influx of civilians into the coastal areas has tapered off and the total number of internally displaced people sheltering in Batticaloa district now stands at 145,000 according to the authorities. More than 70,000 of them are still staying with host families or in local schools, while the remainder are living in more than 80 camps set up by aid agencies. About 11,000 displaced people have already returned to Vaharai. Another 2,000 have made their way to the southern district of Ampara and the majority of them are living with host families. The existing camps for displaced people are overcrowded and new ones are being set up. In addition, the heavy rains of the past few weeks have damaged some of the camps, forcing more than 1,300 people to seek accommodation elsewhere.
 
The ICRC has continued to provide water, sanitation and shelter in the camps in Batticaloa district. It supplies tents as a stopgap measure, then gradually replaces them with temporary shelters. Much of the work required to provide water, sanitation and housing has been completed in the first camps that were set up, such as those in Kiran, Mavadivembu and Koralankerny. The ICRC also plans to build temporary shelters in three new camps in Batticaloa that can accommodate mor e than 5,000 persons.
 
The ICRC has continued to play a major role in providing basic household items such as kitchen sets, jerrycans and mats for displaced people in the divisions of Chenkolady, Kiran and Valachchenai. In addition, it has carried out regular distributions of hygiene kits to some 13,000 people. The kits contain much-needed items such as washing powder, soap, shampoo and toothpaste.   Health  
 
The ICRC has continued to assist the health authorities in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. In the past month, 34 patients requiring specialized treatment have been flown from Jaffna to Colombo by the ICRC. More than 100 laboratory specimens have also been transported from Jaffna to Colombo, while medicines and other medical supplies have been brought from Colombo to Jaffna for delivery to the teaching hospital there and to the local health authorities. Twenty-five sets of ICRC surgical textbooks have been donated to the teaching hospital in Jaffna as well.
 
In Batticaloa district, the ICRC has facilitated the transfer of several amputees from the IDP camps to the Handicap International orthopaedic center for prosthetic fittings. The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) has assisted 31 wounded who were admitted to the teaching hospital in Batticaloa. More than 10 wounded have been evacuated by the SLRCS night ambulance service and another seven by the ICRC.
 
SLRCS volunteers have continued to conduct health-awareness and disease-prevention activities in the camps for displaced people in Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa. The National Society's night ambulances have also continued to provide valuable services in Jaffna, Vavuniya, and Batticaloa.   Economic security  
 
Over the past month, the ICRC has provided more than 13,000 displaced people in Batticaloa district with 2,000 hygiene kits (washing powder, soap, shampoo, etc), 600 kitchen sets (cooking pots, kerosene cookers, cups, plates, knives, tea kettles, etc.), 1,500 mats, 500 tarpaulins, 600 jerrycans and 1,500 sets of clothes.
 
In Trincomalee district, over 2,000 people have received 800 essential household items (basins, pots, plates, mosquito nets, etc.), 250 baby parcels (soap, towels, baby lotion and powder, etc.) and 700 jerrycans.
 
In Jaffna, the ICRC has distributed similar items to about 5,000 people, including 1,500 essential household items and 200 tarpaulins.
 
In the Vanni, 200 families have received 50 kg of fertilizer each and 100 people have been supplied with 20 essential household items, 20 tarpaulins and 50 sets of clothes.   Water and habitat  
 
The ICRC has continued to provide water, sanitation and temporary shelters for six IDP camps in Batticaloa district. Moreover, the construction of access roads to new camps in Palameenmadu and Chettipalayam has begun. Over 100 family tents, 60 temporary shelters, 20 emergency toilets and 12 bathing points have been provided over the past four weeks.
 
In Kiliveti, Trincomalee district, the ICRC has also begun to set up a new camp for 150 displaced families (about 1,000 persons).
 
In the Vanni, the ICRC has completed the rehabilitation of four open wells and distributed shelter materials to more than 30 displaced families at the Theravil and Mankulam camps.   Restoring family links  
 
Over the past month the ICRC has cooperated closely with the SLRCS in an effort to help members of families split up by the conflict to restore and maintain contact with one another. It has also collected 123 family messages and distributed 94.   Visiting detainees  
 
The ICRC has continued to visit people arrested for security reasons. Its delegates have carried out visits to 27 different places of detention during which they registered or held private interviews with 496 detainees.   Civilian population  
 
Families are still reporting abductions of relatives by unknown persons throughout the country. In the last four weeks, 58 such cases have been documented, along with 64 cases of arrest. During the same period, the ICRC transported the bodies of 28 combatants.   ICRC presence at crossing points  
 
The ICRC, acting as a neutral intermediary, has assisted nearly 20,000 civilians in crossing the Omanthai and Uyilankulam lines, in Vavuniya and Mannar districts.   Cooperation within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement  
 
Over the past month, the SLRCS tracing service has continued its efforts to restore contact between family members separated by the conflict, natural disaster and migration. It recently held a workshop aimed at developing an effective approach so as to ensure that th is essential service is sustainable in the long term. The workshop was attended by representatives of the ICRC, the International Federation, the American Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross Society.   For further information, please contact:
  Davide Vignati, ICRC Colombo, tel : +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 77 728 96 82
  Carla Haddad, ICRC Geneva, tel : +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26