ICRC medical supplies blocked

[TamilNet, Thursday, 20 April 2000, 12:25 GMT]
Sri Lankan troops this week prevented the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from taking its MoD authorised medical supplies for its mobile and primary health clinics in the Vanni, the ICRC spokesman Harsha Gunawardena told TamilNet Thursday. He expressed concern for the civilians in the Vanni who relied on the ICRC facilities.

"We sought permission from the Ministry of Defence for 45 types of drugs," Mr.Gunawardena said. Medical supplies into areas not held by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) require approval from the MoD. The ICRC applies each month for clearance for drugs it needs.

"The MoD gave clearance but considerably reduced the quantities we were permitted," Mr.Gunawardena said.

"However, the security forces in Vavuniya blocked 31 items completely and further reduced the quantities of the 14 which permitted, even though we had the MoD clearance with us" Mr.Gunawardena said.

"As a result, there was hardly anything we could take in," he said.

Mr. Gunawardena said the ICRC had taken up the matter with the Sri Lankan authorities and was awaiting a response.

"The ICRC's mobile and primary health clinics are used to assist the civilian populace in the Vanni only," he said. "We fear we might have to close some clinics if sufficient drugs are not permitted."

Mr. Gunawardena also told TamilNet that the Liberation Tigers had released into the custody of the ICRC a trio of fishermen who had been arrested off the Batticaloa coast earlier this month. "The fishermen were handed over to the ICRC at Puthukudiyiruppu," he said.

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