Australia announces $4 mn humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka

February 18th, 2009 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 18 (IANS) Australia Wednesday announced an additional four million dollars (Australian) for humanitarian assistance for the war-hit civilians in the island’s north.
The Australian High Commissioner Kathy Klugman said that the new funding would be provided to the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) “for protection and essential humanitarian support, and to United Nations agencies working with the Sri Lankan government to provide emergency shelter, water and sanitation and for humanitarian relief supplies for the Vanni”.

“This assistance is intended to help ensure that displaced civilians still in the conflict area as well as those in IDP camps in Vavuniya, Jaffna and Mannar have access to basic goods such as medical supplies, shelter, water, and sanitation, and protection,” Klugman said in a statement Wednesday.

She said that Australia was committed to doing what it can, in partnership with the government, the ICRC, UN agencies and other humanitarian bodies, to provide relief for this vulnerable population.

The announcement of Australian assistance coincides with Wednesday’s launch by the Sri Lankan government, and the United Nations of the Common Humanitarian Appeal (CHAP) 2009 for Sri Lanka, it said.

Australia has contributed $37.5 million to humanitarian relief in Sri Lanka since July 2006.

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama Wednesday urged the international community “to exert its utmost pressure on the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to free the civilians who are being held captive in the north and release the innocent children who have been forcibly recruited into their combat ranks”.

He made this appeal when addressing the Colombo-based diplomats at the foreign ministry Wednesday and called on the international community “to understand the complexities of the current ground situation in the north”.

“He highlighted the government’s paramount and overriding concern for the plight of civilians being held hostage behind LTTE lines and stated that the security forces are paying a very high price in undertaking the humanitarian mission of liberating them,” a statement from the foreign ministry said.

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