United Nations officials have voiced their concern over plight of the children in northern Sri Lanka amid ongoing conflict between the government forces and Tamil rebels, asking both the warring parties to ensure protection of the most vulnerable.
Thousands of civilians, including many children, have been killed or injured in the fighting since the beginning of the year, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.
UNICEF's Regional Director for South Asia, Daniel Toole, said that with an estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in the conflict zone - a tiny space of just a few square kilometres - the agency fears that many more children will be killed if the current government offensive continues and if the LTTE refuses to allow civilians to leave.
"This latest surge in fighting is a catastrophe for children and shows a complete disregard for these most vulnerable of civilians," said Toole.
UNICEF reiterated its appeal to the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said she is "horrified" at the deteriorating crisis in Sri Lanka and its serious toll on children.