Thousands displaced as hostilities escalate in Sri Lanka: ICRC

August 14th, 2008 - 6:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Aug 14 (IANS) The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Thursday said that tens of thousands of people have fled areas affected by fighting between the military and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka’s north. The ICRC said the affected areas were Mannar and Kilinochchi districts.

“Among those displaced - most of whom headed towards Kilinochchi - are people who have had to abandon their homes several times in recent months. Access to food, shelter, sanitation and clean water is an urgent priority,” the ICRC office in Colombo said in a statement Thursday.

According to the ICRC, although health facilities in the area “are struggling to cope with increased demand, they have so far been able to meet the population’s basic needs.

“Many people have received basic humanitarian relief but as the number of displaced persons increases, so do their needs,” Anthony Dalziel, the ICRC deputy head of delegation in Sri Lanka was quoted as saying.

The ICRC statement came a day after government troops claimed to have taken control of two key villages, Kalvilan and Mulangavil, in Kilinochchi district from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after heavy fighting Wednesday.

The military has described as “a major victory” the capture of Mulangavil, located on the Mannar-Pooneryn road. Mulangavil was considered the second most important township in Kilinochchi district, where the administrative bases of the LTTE are located.

The rebels remain tightlipped on the military claims.

The ICRC said that in the Wanni, which comprises the districts of Kilinochchi, Mannar and Mullaitivu, it was working closely with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRC). It has distributed relief items such as hygiene kits, baby-care parcels and emergency household kits containing bed linen, towels, sleeping mats and mosquito nets to the displaced.

“Although the upsurge in fighting is making it increasingly difficult for humanitarian workers to gain access to certain areas, the ICRC will continue to provide assistance to those affected by the conflict,” the ICRC statement said.

It said the organization was coordinating its action with other humanitarian agencies in Colombo and Wanni to ensure prompt and effective assistance to the people in need.

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