Access to Sri Lankan refugee camps restricted: UN

May 20th, 2009 - 1:23 pm ICT by IANS  

United Nations, May 20 (Xinhua) Humanitarian organisations have been barred from entering some Sri Lankan government-controlled camps that house thousands of civilians who fled heavy fighting between troops and the Tamil Tigers in the island’s north, a UN official has said.
“It is reported that access to some camps for internally displaced people within Sri Lanka has become restricted,” Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Ann M. Veneman said in a statement.

“Full and unimpeded humanitarian access must be ensured so that children and women can receive the assistance they so desperately need.”

Though the government has declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, civilians continue to arrive at the camps “sick, malnourished and some with untended wounds of war”, said Veneman.

“By the end of this week, the number of internally displaced people in camps is expected to have grown to more than a quarter of a million people since late April.”

With its partners, Unicef is currently providing millions of litres of water each day and rapidly constructing latrines and bathing facilities. In addition, Unicef has also provided hygiene kits, emergency health kits, cooking pots and temporary learning shelters to allow children to resume education, said the statement.

On Tuesday, the Human Rights Council announced it will hold a special session May 25 to address the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

“It is hoped that the holding of this special session will contribute towards the cause of peace,” said Human Rights Council President Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi in a statement.

On Monday, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes told reporters at New York UN headquarters that the conditions of the camps are “not ideal”, nor are they “up to international standards”. In particular, he said, the camp in Vavuniya is “very large”, causing “overcrowding”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will visit Sri Lanka Friday to assess the humanitarian situation.

The Sri Lankan government Tuesday displayed the body of Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa formally announced the end of the dragging ethnic conflict and offered a political settlement acceptable to all communities.

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