UN food convoy for displaced civilians in LTTE-held areas

September 28th, 2008 - 3:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Sep 28 (IANS) The United Nations has decided to move a food convoy for tens of thousands of war-displaced civilians in the LTTE-held areas in north Sri Lanka, where heavy fighting is raging between the advancing government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a UN official said. Two weeks after ordering the UN and other non-governmental volunteer organisations to move out of the rebel-held areas for security reasons, the Sri Lankan government has allowed the UN to escort the food convoy to the rebel-held areas in the north.

Thousands of civilians have already moved from Kilinochchi deeper into the rebel-held areas in the north.

UN spokesman Gordon Weiss said that about 200,000 people have faced displacement due to recent escalation of clashes between the troops and the LTTE and added that the aim of the UN was to ensure that food distribution is carefully managed among the people in need.

“What we intend doing is starting nearly 60-truck of food convoy to Wanni towards the end of this week. It will be accompanied by international supervisors, whose aim is to ensure that the food distribution for the needy people is carefully managed,” Weiss told IANS Sunday.

“For organisational purposes, it is going to be a UN food convoy, but it includes a large quantity of government assistance as well. We are working in full cooperation and coordination with the government of Sri Lanka in this regard,” Weiss said.

He added that handing relief distribution among thousands of needy people in a conflict zone “is a huge task”.

The military said last week that the troops advancing from various directions were just four kilometres away from Kilinochchi town, located 350 km north of here, and would mount attack on the rebels’ political capital this week.

The military is determined to capture Kilinochchi and defence experts say that it would deal a major blow to the LTTE militarily and psychologically as it would corner the rebels to operate only in the northeastern Mullaitivu district.

Asked whether it would be safe to take the food convoy to the Wanni, as troops were poised to intensify its effort to capture Kilinochchi, the UN spokesman said that the UN was in touch with the Tamil Tiger rebels and the government “to decide on the safest route to move the convoy”.

“At the moment we are in the process of determining which route to take. We cannot do a test run with a UN food convoy. But our aim is to reach the people currently displaced in the east of Kilinochchi and the Mullaitivu areas,” he said.

He, however, indicated that the A-34 highway that is branching off to Mullaitivu from Mankulam junction on the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) main highway could be the possible route for the UN convoy.

Meanwhile, Commissioner General of Essential Services S.B. Divaratne has reportedly said that about 1,000 tonnes of food and other essential items had been listed for the first trip later this week and it would be followed by another 4,000 tonnes in the days to come.

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