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Sri Lanka – ICRC Bulletin No. 17/07

20-11-2007 Operational Update

13 October - 20 November

  Latest report on activities in the field   General situation

Hostilities between the Sri Lanka Security Forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were concentrated over the past month in the Mannar and Jaffna districts in the north of the country. The fighting was restricted to the uninhabited area of Muhamalai, south of the Jaffna peninsula and the sparsely populated area of Madhu, to the north-west of Vavuniya. As a result, 22,000 persons have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of September, according to the local authorities who, together with humanitarian organizations, are assisting the displaced.

There was fighting in the area surrounding the Omanthai entry/exit point, sandwiched between areas controlled by the government and the LTTE. This resulted in the point's closure on 18 October and 5 November in order to avoid jeopardizing the safety of civilians and that of ICRC personnel. The ICRC temporarily withdrew from the line. It has since resumed its presence at Omanthai five days a week to facilitate the movement of civilians and freight vehicles. As a result, more than 26,000 civilians and 8,900 vehicles have crossed over in the past four weeks. " The situation in the area remains tense " , said Toon Vandehove, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombo. " The ICRC hopes the entry/exit point can remain open because it's an invaluable conduit for the transport of commercial items and allows humanitarian action to be taken to meet the needs of people on both sides, such as reuniting families and providing access to health care. "

At the request of the government and the LTTE, the ICRC on 27 October extended its presence at the entry/exit point to Saturday in order to make possible the transport of fertilizer to the Vanni region, a measure vital for agriculture there.
  Shelters for displaced families in Mannar

The ICRC offices in Vavuniya and Mannar continued to carry out basic water-supply and sanitation work as well as to build accommodation at several sites where people forced to flee their homes are now living. According to the local authorities, at present there are 11,200 displaced people in the Mannar district. The majority of them are staying with host families, with the remainder accommodated in 13 different sites set up by aid agencies.

" According to the authorities, these civilians will remain displaced at least until January or February of next year, " explained Julie Pharand, ICRC water and habitat coordinator in Colombo. " That's why we're gradually replacing the tents distributed last month with temporary cadjan shelters, which are sturdier and better suited to the rainy season. "

Over the past four weeks, the ICRC has completed construction of 26 cadjan shelters in the coconut plantation adjacent to the church grounds in Nanattan village. In all, 150 displaced people are now living there. In addition, the ICRC has started construction of 36 shelters at the Rice Mill site in the same village for about 320 displaced people, and another 25 shelters in nearby Murunkan village for 110 people.

In Manthai West, Mannar North, according to the authorities a further 10,000 displaced people are either living with host families or have found shelter in one of several sites. Over the past month, the ICRC office in Kilinochchi has repaired and maintained 22 open wells and distributed more than 90 shelter kits containing wooden poles, iron nails, plastic sheeting and cadjan leaves to displaced people in the Kovilkulam and Puttukulam sites.

  Support for Jaipur rehabilitation centre

The ICRC office in Jaffna continued to support the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation, which has been meeting the limb-fitting and rehabilitation needs of the peninsula's population since 1987. Some 1,500 patients are currently registered at the Centre; 650 of them are landmine victims. The rest are suffering from various mobility impairments such as polio, congenital or acquired deformities, cerebral palsy and diabetes. As movements in and out of Jaffna peninsula are severely restricted, disabled people there find it extremely difficult to reach facilities in the south of the country.

Since last July, the ICRC has been assisting the Centre by providing the services of a full-time expatriate with expertise in both physiotherapy and ortho-prosthetic techniques. The ICRC has also furnished training for the local employees working at the Centre, in addition to financial support, logistics, materials and equipment.

Since the beginning of October, the ICRC has given care to 104 patients and supplied 23 artificial limbs and nine wheelchairs. " The Centre is now open five days a week and provides orthopaedic appliances, prostheses, other mobility aids such as wheelchairs and crutches, and physiotherapy, " said Manoli Kokkiniotis, who heads the ICRC project. " It really is an essential service for the entire peninsula. "

  Aiding returnees on east coast

The ICRC office in Batticaloa assisted some 6,000 displaced people living in Palachelai, Mavadivembu and Kaluvankerny camps and 2,500 returnees from Aythiyamalai, Unichai, and Chenkalady villages. In all, the ICRC provided them with 1,600 hygiene kits, 570 food parcels, 200 baby parcels, 20 essential household-items kits and 33 seed packs.

The ICRC completed decommissioning of five of the eight camps for displaced people, and construction materials recovered there have been used to assist the returnees in their home villages. Over the past five weeks, 111 shelter kits and 50 tarpaulin kits were distributed to the returnees in Vellavely and Vavunatheevu divisions in the west of the district. The ICRC also distributed about 100 tarpaulins to returnees in Pulliyaveli and Eravur Pattu villages, while 200 were distributed to displaced people in Mavadivembu camp.

In addition, the ICRC continued to supply the villages of Kunchankulam and Mathurankulam, in Vaharai division, with 6,000 litres of drinking water per day, while in Vavunatheevu division it has distributed over 300,000 litres of water to the villagers of Unnichi over the past four weeks.

  Since 13 October, the ICRC done the following:
  • carried out 32 visits to 31 different places of detention all over the country, during which delegates registered, and held private interviews with, 428 detainees

  • collected 356 personal messages to relatives and distributed 217

  • transported 33 bodies of fallen combatants/fighters in Vavuniya and Kilinochchi

  • flew 50 patients from Jaffna to Colombo together with 11 medical staff and 40 accompanying persons

  • helped Ministry of Health staff carry out three vaccination rounds (for 141 children) and antenatal clinics (for 113 expectant mothers) in Vavuniya North

  • in Kilinochchi district: distributed 84 shelter kits, repaired two hand pumps, cleaned two open wells in Mallavi, constructed three shelters in Vaddakachchi and one in Pandiyankulam (Four 1,000-litre water tanks were supplied to the villages of Poonagar and Poovarsankulam.)

  • in Trincomalee district: constructed 6 shelters and one open well in Tanganagar (Seruvilla division)

  • in Trincomalee, provided some 8,000 people in Echilampattai, Muttur, Kinniya and Kuchchaveli villages with 720 agricultural tools, 1,900 bags of fertilizer, 2,200 bags of paddy seed, 120 packs of vegetable seed, 135 essential household items, 70 hygiene parcels and 40 tarpaulins

  • in the Vanni, distributed hygiene kits, tarpaulins, 60 essential household items, 20 baby parcels and 80 mosquito nets to 240 displaced people in Manthai West and Karaichchi

  • in Vavuniya and Mannar districts, distributed hygiene kits, 150 kitchen sets and coconut scrapers, 150 kerosene cookers, 180 mosquito nets, 50 essential household items and 60 baby parcels to 760 displaced people in Nanattan and Murunkan

  • in Jaffna, distributed 530 hygiene kits and 25 baby parcels to 550 host families in Kytes, Puliyankudal, Naranthanai and Saravanai villages.

  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

** The 10th anniversary of the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines is on 3 December 2007.

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