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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2556

UN And Government Of Sri Lanka Appeal For Aid To Displaced

Colombo, 06 May, (Asiantribune.com): The United Nations and Government of Sri Lanka said today that an urgent appeal has been launched for $50 million to meet the most immediate humanitarian needs of civilians fleeing fighting in the country’s north.

The appeal comes at a time when aid agencies and the Government of Sri Lanka are struggling to cope with a sudden rise in displaced crossing into government territory, and as fighting continues over the last pocket of land held by the LTTE.

The number of people being held in government camps rose from 65,000 to 190,000 in just a few days after a mass civilian exodus when government forces breached the combat zone on 20 April. Thousands of civilians remain trapped inside that zone.

'We must address together the current shortcomings in assistance,' said Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights. 'We must build confidence amongst these Sri Lanka citizens who have suffered considerably.'

The renewed appeal addresses the most urgent humanitarian needs for an estimated 250,000 people. It includes projects for food, water, sanitation, shelter, nutrition, health and protection, as well as educational requirements for thousands of children who have been without schooling for months during the escalating conflict. Minister Samarasinghe emphasized the need to work within the stipulated national framework when addressing these needs.

The displaced now in government-held territory are being housed in 42 separate sites in four districts in Sri Lanka’s north, while 2,000 injured and accompanying relatives have been accommodated in hospitals.

"It’s a critical time," said Neil Buhne, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka. "Around a quarter of under 5 year olds in the camps are under-nourished, and they need immediate help. Tens of thousands more civilians are expected to come from the remaining zone."

The UN has urged the government of Sri Lanka to continue to release people from camps and return them to their homes as quickly as possible. Some hundreds of people forced to flee fighting more than a year ago returned home last week to the Mannar district, and the appeal includes agricultural and economic projects to support similar returns. The Government says that it intends to return 80 per cent of the displaced to their homes by the end of 2009.

The $50 million appeal is an adjusted priority figure extracted from the Common Humanitarian Action Plan appeal for $155 million, which had been launched in March in anticipation of the evolving humanitarian crisis. Less than one third of that appeal has been funded.

- Asian Tribune -

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