UN wants $155 million for Sri Lanka’s war-hit regions

February 19th, 2009 - 11:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 19 (IANS) The United Nations Thursday appealed to its donors worldwide for a $155 million aid to help people in Sri Lanka’s embattled northern and eastern provinces.
The Inter-agency Standing Committee Country Team of the UN in Sri Lanka, issuing a Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) for humanitarian and early recovery assistance for 2009, said that money will be spent over the period of one year.

“The CHAP is asking donors for $155.5 million for 103 projects to be carried out by the UN and NGO partners, to address the needs of conflict-affected communities in northern and eastern districts of the island,” the UN office of the resident and humanitarian co-ordinator said in a statement.

The appeal for financial assistance comes at a time when the Sri Lanka government is battling the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the island’s north-eastern Mullaitivu district.

The UN said after slow gains during the first half of 2008, rapid government advances have pressed the LTTE into a last remaining pocket of territory, uprooting hundreds of thousands of civilians from their homes.

“Some 30,000 people have recently crossed into government-held territory, and the government, the UN and NGOs are engaged in providing urgently needed services to newly constructed camps, even as tens of thousands more are expected,” the UN statement said.

Requirements covered in the CHAP include food aid, shelter camp management, protection, economic recovery and infrastructure, agriculture, health care, water and sanitation, education and nutrition.

Claiming the food aid accounts for almost $60 million alone, the CHAP stipulates that sustained and safe access to needy populations “is a prerequisite for successful implementation”.

“While last year’s generous donor response allowed us to implement important stabilizing projects in the re-captured east, I remain concerned about the ability of aid staff to gain access to those in need, especially in northern conflict areas,” said John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

John Holmes is currently in Colombo and is scheduled to pay a fact-finding visit Friday to the northern town of Vavuniya, where little over 35,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) are housed in government welfare centers.

Envisaging that the security in Sri Lanka “will remain fragile throughout 2009″, the CHAP stressed that “a return to employment for the displaced, while acknowledging that the global economic downturn will present a challenge to recovery efforts”.

“The protection of civilians remains a key challenge in Sri Lanka. The United Nations and partner NGOs are working closely with government counterparts, local authorities and protection networks to address protection concerns faced by civilians - especially children - caught up in the conflict, and to support returning communities,” the UN said.

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