Sri Lanka: ICRC assists thousands of persons in government-run sites for the displaced

09-06-2009 Operational Update

The ICRC has been bringing aid to thousands of civilians who fled the areas formerly held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and is visiting a growing number of persons held in relation to the conflict in government places of detention. The following is the latest report on ICRC activities between March and May 2009.

  ©Reuters /D. Gray    
Northern Sri Lanka. A mother with her children at Manik Farm IDP camp on the outskirts of Vavuniya.    

  ©Reuters /D. Gray    
Tamil women queue to receive food at Manik Farm IDP camp on the outskirts of Vavuniya    

  ©Reuters /D. Gray    
An injured child with his mother at Manik Farm IDP camp near Vavuniya.    

  ©Reuters /D. Gray    
A Tamil family at Manik Farm IDP camp near Vavuniya    

 Assisting displaced persons  


The ICRC is assisting the government in meeting its obligations to care for internally displaced persons (IDPs) by providing those in government-run sites with food, water, shelter and sanitation, as well as hygiene and essential household items.

" The needs of these people are still immense. Many of them have lost their families, friends and all their possessions,” said Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Sri Lanka. " Those who have been separated from their families desperately want to hear from them. The ICRC will continue supporting the government's efforts to help them and remains ready to share its expertise in restoring family links.”

The ICRC has provided shelter and water, as well as built latrines for over 66,000 people at several government-run IDP sites in Batticaloa, Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya and Trincomalee districts. In Manik Farm alone, over 20,000 people have access to five litres of clean drinking water every day, thanks to a water-treatment plant and a water tank installed by ICRC staff.

More than 70,000 IDPs in Manik Farm have received hygiene and baby care parcels. Some 40,000 displaced families in Vavuniya, Jaffna and Trincomalee districts received supplies of dried food, clothes, hygiene items and kitchen utensils.

When increasing numbers of civilians arrived at the Omanthai entry point, the ICRC and volunteers from the Sri Lankan Red Cross Society provided first aid to hundreds of sick and w ounded displaced people.

By the end of May, the ICRC had evacuated over 13,500 sick and wounded people and their caretakers from Putumattalan and Mullaivaikkal on the ICRC-chartered ferry, " Green Ocean.” Thousands among them required medical treatment. To help care for the sick and wounded, the ICRC has supported hospitals run by the ministry of health in Mannar and Trincomalee by providing water, sanitation facilities and a medical team.

 Acting as a neutral intermediary between the government and LTTE personnel  


The ICRC continues to work as a neutral intermediary between remaining LTTE personnel and the Sri Lankan government, relaying information about individuals wishing to surrender. If contacted by such a person, the ICRC will pass on the information to the police or the security forces, after noting personal data to ensure an individual follow-up of the person surrendering.


 Protecting civilians and people held in connection with the conflict  

Thousands of people who have had links with the LTTE, including former LTTE fighters, have been surrendering to the authorities. With the agreement of the authorities, the ICRC has visited over 5,000 people with links to the LTTE who have handed themselves in recently and are held in places of detention and rehabilitation centres.

Six members of government security forces whom the ICRC had visited during their detention by the LTTE returned home after the last days of fighting in Mullaitivu district. The ICRC facilitate d the exchange of Red Cross messages between the detainees and their families throughout their detention and provided recreational items.

Since 1989, the ICRC has been visiting people arrested for security reasons to monitor their conditions of detention and the manner in which they are treated and, based on an agreement signed with the Sri Lankan government. Between March and May 2009, ICRC delegates held private interviews with more than 6,700 security detainees in nearly 135 government-run places of detention throughout the country and provided them with clothes, toiletries and recreational items. The ICRC supported the families of some 1,400 detainees to visit their detained relatives.

The ICRC continues supporting the authorities in their obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka. When necessary, it makes representations to the relevant authorities concerning missing persons, arbitrary arrests, the recruitment of minors, unlawful killings and the ill-treatment of civilians or detainees by weapon bearers. The ICRC discusses such allegations of violations in private with the authorities concerned.

 Restoring family links through Red Cross messages  


Red Cross messages help detainees keep in touch with their relatives and bring together families separated by the conflict. May saw a sharp increase in the number of messages the ICRC handled, with the organization collecting over 2,000 and delivering 340.

 Homage to ICRC staff  


Many people have either been injured or lost their lives during the armed conflict, and ICRC staff has n ot been spared. In April, our colleague Sinnathurai Kugathasan was killed in Ambalavanapokanai, Mullaitivu district. Mr Kugathasan was the third ICRC employee in Sri Lanka to lose his life since December 2008. In addition, 11 ICRC employees were injured in the conflict area between January and March 2009.

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