Amnesty urges Sri Lanka to end policy of blocking humanitarian aid

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 19 November 2008, 18:30 GMT]
"The Sri Lankan government must immediately end its policy of blocking humanitarian aid needed to reach an estimated 300,000 displaced people in the Wanni region of northern Sri Lanka," the Amnesty International said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“More than 300,000 people face the next few months crowded together in temporary shelters, surrounded by mud, with no promise of regular access to food or adequate sanitation. Our information indicates that the situation in Wanni is rapidly becoming critical, despite the government’s statements that it is coping,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

"The Sri Lankan government states that it is distributing aid to displaced families, but Amnesty International believes that the government lacks the capacity to uphold international human rights standards and ensure the support is provided to protect the lives of thousands of people."

"As the north-east monsoon season approaches, only 2,100 temporary shelters for 4,000 families have been provided, leaving at least 20,000 families in need of protection from the elements."

The statement also said that the photos taken when the aid agencies pulled out showed that people were already facing malnutrition and the threat of disease.

"According to an analysis of the World Food Programme (WFP) data, displaced people in the Wanni are receiving an average of  1,000 calories each per day. This is less than half the 2,100 calories required daily, as recommended by the WFP. These figures are based on weekly convoys of 438 tonnes of food aid provided for an UN-estimated 230,000 displaced people. Lactating mothers and infants are especially vulnerable as they are not receiving adequate supplementary food to meet their specific needs."

"It is estimated that approximately 35 per cent of the Wanni's rice and vegetable producing areas are located in the conflict zone and are no longer accessible," the statement said and added that displaced people are already reported to be "pawning or selling jewellery to buy basic food items."

 

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