As the two-decade old war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) escalates, the United Nations (UN) has issued an appeal to the Tamil Tigers to allow civilians to move out of the war zone and move into relief camps in government-controlled areas.
Tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have already taken shelter in schools and under flimsy tents in northern Sri Lanka.
Last week, the government put the figure of IDPs at more than 1.7 lakh. The number is set to increase as the fighting is expected to intensify in the coming weeks.
“Any displaced person is entitled to freedom of movement according to international principles; they can move where and when they want, in search of safety and assistance,’’ Neil Buhne, the UN Resident representative said in a public statement.
The UN office said it is providing supplies to the displaced in the Wanni area, 50km south of Kilinochchi, an LTTE stronghold.
Buhne said supplies were reaching the displaced despite the access difficulties, but he warned that the situation was very precarious.
“We continue to have access to the bulk of the IDPs, but the situation is very fluid,’’ Buhne said. “It is difficult for us to supply them when they are on the move.’’
Officials in Kilinochchi have warned distribution of supplies could be easily blocked. “There is only one road [with access to government-controlled areas], the A9 and one access point,’’ the government agent in Kilinochchi, Nagalingam Vedanayagam, told a relief related website. “If that route closes [due to fighting], the Wanni is cut off.’’
Commissioner of Essential Services, SB Divaratne, told HT that transportation of relief material could be a problem once the fighting intensifies.
“At present there are no shortage of medicines and food. But if the access is blocked, there could be problems,’’ he said.