Help for the displaced

Place: Jaffna | Courtesy: AI
| Date: 20000531

The current upsurge in the fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan security forces on the Jaffna peninsula has caused large numbers of civilians to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere in public buildings and with friends and relatives.

Whenever the security situation permits, ICRC staff go in to assess the needs of the displaced population. With the help of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, the ICRC has registered 3,250 families (some 12,000 persons) and distributed non-food relief at centres in Walikamam West and Point Pedro on the Jaffna peninsula. In the Wanni area, to the south of the peninsula, 241 families (1,035 people) have received similar aid.

In order to ensure their uninterrupted operation, ICRC delegates constantly monitor the situation in the hospitals. So far, the Jaffna Teaching Hospital has admitted 29 civilian wounded, while 52 have been taken to the hospital in Point Pedro. Thirty-four civilian victims have been transferred from Mallavi hospital to the hospital in Vavuniya, which has greater resources with which to treat them.

ICRC staff have collected over 290 Red Cross Messages from the displaced centres in Walikamam West and will distribute them to loved ones from whom they have been separated.

The weekly voyages of the ICRC-chartered ship Java Gulf resumed on 30 May when it left Trincomalee for Point Pedro with additional delegates to reinforce the ICRC team in Jaffna, relief supplies for the displaced and mail (it provides a key postal link between north and south Sri Lanka). It is scheduled to leave Point Pedro on 31 May with 13 medical patients on board. The vessel, which evacuates seriously ill people from the Jaffna peninsula to hospitals in Colombo and transports government medical supplies to health-care facilities in Jaffna, had been prevented from sailing last week because agreement could not be reached between both the security forces and LTTE regarding the port to be used at the northern end of the island.

Seven expatriate ICRC delegates and 36 Sri Lankan staff are working out of the organization's sub-delegation in Jaffna.