Sri Lanka: ICRC activities in 2007
09-04-2008 Operational Update
Summary report on the ICRC's activities in 2007 to protect and assist civilians affected by the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. Beneficiaries of the ICRC’s work include separated families and the internally displaced, the wounded, the sick and the detained.
In 2007, close to 600 ICRC employees, including 70 internationals, worked to improve the situation of those affected by armed conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In line with its specific humanitarian mandate, the ICRC worked predominantly in the conflict-affected areas of the north and east, out of its offices in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Puthukkudiyirippu, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Muthur, Ampara, Vavuniya, Mannar and Colombo.
National Red Cross or Red Crescent societies from 23 countries worked in tsunami-affected areas to implement a wide range of humanitarian assistance programmes.
The ICRC has been permanently present in Sri Lanka since 1989.
Acting as a neutral intermediary
The ICRC staff facilitated the smooth passage of approximately 360,000 civilians between the government-controlled and LTTE-held areas. Among them were more than 8,000 patients referred to Vavuniya General Hospital from rural and district hospitals in the Vanni.
At the request of both parties to the conflict, it also transported over 250 remains of dead combatants between the LTTE and government forces. The ICRC equipped mortuaries in Valaichennai and Vavuniya with cold storage facilities and repaired four body coolers at Anuradhapura Hospital.
Protection of civilian population
The ICRC closely monitored violations of international humanitarian law affecting civilians throughout the country. It collected allegations of extra-judicial killings, ill treatment or child recruitment from family members and discussed them confidentially with the appropriate authority. The ICRC worked with the parties to the conflict to obtain information on the whereabouts of people who have disappeared in relation to the conflict, so as to inform the families of their fate.
Visits to persons held in relation to the conflict
ICRC delegates monitored the conditions of detention of over 2,700 people arrested in relation to the conflict and held in almost 160 places of detention, in the custody of either the Government or the LTTE. Of these, more than 2,100 detainees were registered and visited for the first time in 2007.
The ICRC assisted the detainees with recreational items, clothes and toiletries. Families of 880 detainees received financial assistance to visit their relatives held in government places of detention. More than 400 released detainees received financial help to return home on public transport.
Assistance to the displaced or returnees
Responding to the needs of the conflict-affected population, the ICRC supplied various food items to more than 416,000 displaced people within Sri Lanka. Over 255,000 displaced persons received locally-purchased household and hygiene items, including mosquito nets, while almost 9,000 families with young ch ildren received baby care items. An additional 17,000 people, more than 200 of them war widows, were assisted through fishing or food production programmes, as well as small cash grants or vocational training.
Help with access to water and habitat
The ICRC helped more than 86,000 people (54,000 displaced and 31,000 residents in communities caring for the displaced) with access to clean water, shelter or sanitation facilities. Among them were 7,000 patients from six referral hospitals in the north and east.
The programme ensured a clean water supply for some 69,000 people and improved sanitation facilities for 19,000. 37,000 people displaced due to the conflict received shelter. A team of seven expatriate and 45 local engineers and technicians worked on these projects in Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Vavuniya, Mannar, Anuradhapura, Kilinochchi and Jaffna districts.
Over the year, the ICRC regularly supported 23 hospitals and over 50 other health care facilities in Jaffna, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts, which cared for an estimated 8,000 people. The ICRC regularly donated essential drugs and materials to seven health facilities located near combat zones, which provided emergency treatment mainly for war wounded.
Almost 1,500 residents of Jaffna in need of specialized medical care travelled to Colombo and back on ICRC-arranged flights, accompanied by medical staff and carers.
Care for the disabled
Through the ICRC's support, 400 patients of the Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation received physical rehabilitation services. Almost 70 new patients were fitted with artificial limbs and more than 20 with orthopaedic appliances. The ICRC also provided ten wheelchairs and some 40 crutches, while the centre's staff was trained to ensure sustainable services for patients. The ICRC also facilitated the transfer of almost 40 amputees from camps for the displaced in Trincomalee and Batticaloa to the orthopaedic centre in Batticaloa.
Restoration of family links
The ICRC exchanged almost 5,000 Red Cross messages between families separated by the conflict because of displacement or detention of a family member.
Co-operation within the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement
The ICRC trained Sri Lanka Red Cross Society staff and volunteers to respond to the population's needs resulting from the on-going armed conflict. More than 200 SLRCS volunteers, from 26 branches in the north and the east, attended ICRC training on disaster response, security and evacuation of victims. Another 60 volunteers were trained on how to help people get back in touch with their relatives. The ICRC also supported the SLRCS's nation-wide campaign to prevent the misuse of the Red Cross emblem.
Under the umbrella of the International Federation, 23 Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies present in Sri Lanka worked for SLRCS tsunami-reconstruction programme and helped with capacity building.
Promoting international humanitarian law
During the year, the ICRC conducted almost 260 sessions on ICRC work and international humanitarian law (IHL) for more than 5,000 weapons bearers, including government security forces and the LTTE. Approximately 2,200 police officers and members of the Home Guard, as well as over 2,800 government officials and different civilian groups in the north and the east of Sri Lanka, received the same information.