Increasing Concern for Plight of Refugees

Place: Vanni | Courtesy: British Refugee Council
| Date: 19960900

"The plight of refugees is of increasing concern for international agencies. International refugee agency UNHCR's Peter Meijerhas urged the government to ensure that food supplies reached the Vanni refugees and expressed fears that more people will pour out of Mannar Island. Lack of security and food is the major cause and thousands of refugees are trekking towards Mannar Is- land, says UNHCR.

French medical agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says in an early September statement that there is an acute shortage of dcvgs and patients cannot be treated. The last shipment of drugs, 25% of the total re- quirement for Vanni, was in June. The Defence Ministry has turned down re- cent requests for drugs from MSF and the ICRC. MSF Country Director Guillermo Bertoletti says only two weeks supply of medicine are available. Madhu has not received medical supplies since August and even basic items such as vitamins for pregnant women have not been allowed by the Defence Ministry. Aid workers fear an epidemic if outbreaks of water-borne diseases and malaria are not checked.

As drought continues, clean water supply and sanitation are major concerns in the Vanni. In late September ICRC's water and sanitation head John Fleming warned of a major disaster and sought urgent clearance from the Defence Min- istry for chlorine to purify water and spare parts for tube wells.

Food is in short supply. The continual movement of the population follow- ing military operations makes distribution difficult and food is not reaching many people. Vavuniya's senior government officer Government Agent (GA) Ganesh says that Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts need 2,126 lorryloads of food per month, but in September only 1,355 lorries were permitted at the crossing point at Thandikulam in Vavuniya.

British Refugee Council Publication - Sri Lanka Monitor September 1996