110 Tamils die in refugee camps in December 1996

Place: Vanni | Courtesy: Refugee Council
| Date: 19960000

"The death of 110 people admitted to the Mallavi and Puthukudyiruppu hospitals in Kilinochchi District, in December is a grim indication of the deteriorating health facilities for 450,000 refugees in the Vanni. Most of them are from Jaffna, displaced when the Army captured the peninsula in December 1995. The deaths were caused by malaria, septicaemia and typhoid. A senior government officer in the Vanni says that most could have been saved with adequate medicine, medical equipment and hospital space. Despite the Defence Ministry’s assurance to NGOs, restrictions on medicines and food continue. Government officers say medicines for the six months from October 1996 where sent to the Vanni in late January but for many people they may have arrived too late.

Further south in Vavuniya town, over 10,800 people from the north spent the mid-January Tamil Thaipongal festival in appalling camp conditions. Some 31,400 people entered Vavuniya in the last three months after the Army lifted restrictions at Thandikulam checkpoint in October and 20,600 were allowed to leave welfare centres after screening.

The government is currently hurriedly constructing 100 centres in Vavuniya signalling that the policy of detaining people from the north will continue. A four-member committee headed by Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva has been appointed to enquire into conditions in the Vavuniya welfare centres. Observers believe foreign diplomatic concern has forced the government to act. In January and early February diplomats from Britain, Australia, USA and Canada visited Vavuniya." (British Refugee Council - Sri Lanka Monitor, January 1997)