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Lanka faces humanitarian crisis

world Updated: Sep 11, 2008 00:24 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The Sri Lankan government might have directed aid workers to leave the north but international NGOs are now worried about the future of civilians caught up in the war between the armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern over escalating violence in northern Sri Lanka and the humanitarian consequences for civilians.

A statement issued by the UN headquarters in New York said: “In light of the Government’s request for the relocation of United Nations humanitarian staff in affected areas, he (Ban Ki-moon) reminds all concerned of their responsibility to take active steps to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of civilians, allowing humanitarian organisations to do their work in safety, as well as to reach persons affected by the fighting who need humanitarian assistance.”

The statement further said the Secretary-General emphasises strongly the importance of a negotiated settlement for the political problems facing Sri Lanka.

The UN has a major presence in the north where several of its affiliates are providing aid to civilians. It is likely that the UN would begin withdrawing its staff within a week.

The pro-LTTE website, Tamilnet, reported on Wednesday that, “vehicles with foreign aid workers of OXFAM, Save the Children, World

Vision, Danish Refugee Council, ZOA, International Organisation of Migration (IOM) and UN agencies were seen lined up at Oamanthai exit point, according to the sources in Vanni and Vavuniyaa.”

The University Teachers for Human Rights — Jaffna (UTHRJ), a reputed rights body, told HT over email that the decision augurs ill for the civilian population of Killinochchi.

“The government’s advance into Killinochchi portends civilian casualties on a large scale and it doesn’t want these getting any publicity,’’ UTHR (J) said.