Aid agencies fear for Batticaloa displaced

[TamilNet, Monday, 14 May 2007, 14:57 GMT]
Aid agencies in Sri Lanka’s volatile eastern province say they are concerned that over 140,000 Tamils displaced by earlier military offensives are being forced to go back to their homes despite unsafe conditions there. However, the Sri Lankan government insists it will continue with the resettlement. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme is warning that food supplies to displaced people is running out.



"The humanitarian community fears that the lack of proper planning might put returnees in a situation where safety and dignity are not ensured," a committee of aid agencies including UN bodies, said in a statement on Sunday.

But AFP quoted a Sri Lankan official as saying that the first batch of 4,000 people will be allowed to go back to their homes in the embattled eastern Batticaloa district from Monday.

"We will have this process conducted over 11 days," the official told AFP, adding that nearly 140,000 people displaced within the district will be moved back.

Military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe told Reuters: "We have commenced resettlement in Batticaloa. They are to be resettled in areas recaptured from the LTTE. "

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme warned last week that food supplies to displaced people in the east are under threat of breaking down within a few weeks.

"Without new contributions, WFP beneficiaries will suffer breaks in all food commodities by early June 2007," the WFP latest operational report said on the east.

"We are satisfied with the short term assistance given by donors, but we have concerns over long term commitments, and we need both to look after the IDP’s," WFP country head Jeff Taft Dick said.

WFP says that it needs 1500 metric tons of supplies to look after the monthly needs of 100,000 IDP’s in Batticaloa, consisting of 600 tons of rice, 600 tons of wheat flour, 180 tons of dhal and 60 tons each of sugar and cooking oil.

In March, WFP warned of a break in pipeline by end of April.

Donors including Japan, the US and the UN Central Emergency Fund pledged funds to meet the added burden, but the commitments have secured the supply lines till June, The Morning Leader newspaper reported last week.

However, the WFP report said that it has been compelled to cut down on existing food programmes to meet the needs of the IDPs.

"Due to pipeline constraints, WFP has had to reprioritise resources from other geographical areas and partially suspend some recovery programmes," the report said.

There are at least 140,000 IDP’s remaining in the Batticaloa district and an additional 150,000 scattered in the north east, The Morning Leader reported.

The WFP needs US $ 1 million to look after the weekly needs of all IDPs in the island which it says numbers close to 400,000, the paper also said.

 

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