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Sri Lanka – ICRC Bulletin No. 10 / 2007

07-02-2007 Operational Update

Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

 ICRC assistance for displaced people in Batticaloa district  

On 13 December the first of some 30,000 internally displaced people sheltering near the Vakarai hospital began moving south towards Batticaloa, either on foot or in vehicles such as tractors and trucks. The last group of 5,000 left the area on 19 January. Many of these people, physically and mentally exhausted, were able to bring with them little more than the clothes on their backs and are in need of temporary shelter, water, sanitation, food and basic household items. The ICRC is providing them with immediate assistance, in cooperation with the local authorities.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the ICRC has set up four of the largest camps for displaced people in Batticaloa district – two in Kiran, one in Alankulam and the fourth in Mavadivembu. So far, it has made available over 1,500 family-sized tents and semi-permanent housing structures and given another 1,000 tents to partner organizations for distribution in the same area under the supervision of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, thus providing about 16,000 people with shelter. It has also installed over 120 emergency toilets and provided bathing and washing facilities. Early on in the crisis, the ICRC distributed about five litres of drinking water per day to some 5,000 individuals. In the past few weeks, it has continued to supply water for about 2,500 people on a daily basis.

Since last December, the ICRC has provided more than 10,000 displaced people in Batticaloa district with essential household items (basins, pots, plates, mosquito nets, etc.), hygiene kits (washing powd er, soap, shampoo, etc.), baby parcels (soap, towels, baby lotion and powder, etc.), tarpaulins, jerrycans, mats and sarongs. In the past two weeks alone, the organization has distributed 400 essential household items, 650 hygiene kits, 50 baby parcels, 300 jerrycans and 868 mats to approximately 700 displaced families (3,000 individuals) currently settled in several sites in Batticaloa district (Kiran, Eravur Pattu, Movadivembu and Alankulam). Displaced people sheltering in Kilevetty School have received 75 baby parcels and hygiene kits, and 60 displaced families from Vakarai and Eachilampattu, in Trincomalee, have also received assistance.

Responding to a request by the World Food Programme, which was facing a shortage of supplies, the ICRC has provided about 720 tonnes of rice to the Sri Lanka Red Cross and the local authorities for distribution to some 62,000 people in Batticaloa. It has also handed out about 80 tonnes of rice to some 5,000 people in Trincomalee.

In the last two weeks of January, the ICRC facilitated the evacuation of 17 patients from Vakarai to the referral hospital in Kyankerny, Batticaloa district. Since December, it has facilitated the evacuation of a total of 57 war-wounded and sick patients from Vakarai to referral hospitals in the Batticaloa area.

The ICRC is continuing to cooperate closely with the Sri Lanka Red Cross in an effort to restore contact between members of families split up by the conflict. Since 13 December, the ICRC has collected 151 family messages and distributed another 43 in Batticaloa district alone.

 ICRC activities in the rest of the country  


The ICRC has continued to lend a hand to the health authorities in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. In the past two weeks 43 patients, accompanied by their caretakers and doctors, have been flown from Jaffna onboard ICRC-chartered planes for treatment and further medical investigations in referral hospitals in Colombo. Specimens for laboratory tests have been transported from Jaffna to Colombo and medicines and other medical items supplied by the Ministry of Health have been brought from Colombo to the teaching hospital and health services in Jaffna. Dressing material, medicines and intravenous fluids were donated to the Kilinochi district hospital following the arrival of injured patients from the village of Padakuthurai on 2 January. The ICRC has also evacuated the bodies of 21 fighters.

Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers have been conducting activities to promote health and prevent diseases in the camps for displaced people in Trincomalee (Kinniya area) and Batticaloa (Valaichenai and Kiran areas). Mobile clinics in Jaffna have received an extra supply of essential drugs for the treatment of both displaced people and residents in the villages. A system of night ambulances, run by the Sri Lanka Red Cross, have continued to provide valuable services in Jaffna. In the Vanni, community health workers have provided hygiene kits for needy families in Thirimurijkandy, Ootrupulam and Thanduvanthe. Together with the Sri Lanka Red Cross, the ICRC has also facilitated the transfer of 317 patients from the Vanni to Vavuniya.

 Water and habitat  

The ICRC has continued assisting internally displaced people in the north and east of the country, setting up a temporary shelter for 20 families in Kantale, Trincomalee district, and providing over 300 displaced families in the Vanni with construction materials to build temporary shelters. In Jaffna, in cooperation with the government and UNHCR, the ICRC has provided sanitation facilities for displaced families who are hosted by r esidents.

 Restoring family links  


The ICRC has cooperated closely with the Sri Lanka Red Cross to help members of families split apart by the conflict to restore and maintain contact with one another. Since 18 January, the ICRC has collected 106 and distributed 136 family messages throughout the country.


 Visits to detainees  


The ICRC is continuing its visits to people arrested for security reasons. In the past two weeks, its delegates have carried out 30 visits to 29 places of detention in which they registered or held private interviews with 273 detainees



In the past two weeks the ICRC, acting as a neutral intermediary, has facilitated the passage of nearly 19,000 civilians across the Omanthai and Uyilankulam lines. During this period, it also recorded 40 cases of abduction by unknown persons and 100 cases of arrest throughout the country.

 Cooperation within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement  

Throughout the north-eastern part of the country, many ICRC assistance and tracing activities have been carried out t ogether with Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers and staff. The ICRC has launched an initiative to boost the capacity of selected Sri Lanka Red Cross branches to provide night ambulance services for civilians in Jaffna, Vavuniya and Batticaloa. The Sri Lanka Red Cross has also carried out relief activities with support from other National Societies, such as the German Red Cross and the Hong Kong Red Cross.

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


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