Thousands trapped in Sri Lanka combat zone need food, medicines: ICRC

April 30th, 2009 - 8:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) Thousands of civilians, including women, children and the elderly, many of them wounded and sick, remain trapped and at risk in the no-fire zone in Sri Lanka, an international humanitarian organisation said Thursday appealing for more food and medicines to be allowed in the area.
“Given the catastrophic situation of thousands of displaced, sick and wounded people still in the conflict area, the parties must do more to protect them and must allow more food and medicine into the area,” said Monica Zanarelli, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) deputy head of operations for South Asia, in a statement.

According to the ICRC, it has evacuated close to 12,400 people - the sick and wounded and their accompanying relatives - from the conflict area by boat since Feb 10.

On Wednesday, the ICRC carried out its 28th evacuation with over 520 people aboard the Green Ocean, an ICRC-chartered ferry.

The previous day, the ferry also brought over 30 tonnes of food donated to the Sri Lankan government by the World Food Programme into the conflict area. Further deliveries are expected in coming days.

“It is the responsibility of the authorities to ensure that all displaced people are safe and have access to food, medical care, clean water and sanitation. It is essential that families are rapidly reunited and allowed to return voluntarily to their homes as soon as conditions permit,” said Zanarelli.

The ICRC said many displaced people were worried about their future and wanted to know how long they would have to stay away from home. Besides family members have also been separated from one another and are anxious of the whereabouts of their relatives.

Though the Sri Lankan authorities have made some attempts to restore links between separated family members by making available postal and telephone services, requests of many families dispersed among different camps to be reunited, and information on the whereabouts of relatives remain to be addressed, said the ICRC.

“The ICRC has asked the authorities to clarify the time frame for lifting restrictions on movement imposed on the displaced population and to indicate when the resettlement process will begin,” said Zanarelli.

The ICRC, together with its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, have in recent days installed water tanks and built latrines, and they are currently erecting over 1,800 tents for over 7,200 people.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ruled out halting the fight-to-finish military campaign against the Tamil Tigers and has also disallowed aid agencies access to civilians trapped in the no-war zone in the northeastern Mullaitivu district.

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