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Food situation in Jaffna choking says Red Cross

The Jaffna peninsula and the Wanni region have been cut off from the rest of the island since the last three weeks, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2006 19:24 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said that it is "deeply concerned" about the humanitarian situation in war-ravaged North East Sri Lanka, particularly the Jaffna peninsula and the Wanni region, which have been cut off from the rest of the island for the last three weeks.

"Jaffna is choking," said Reto Meister, the ICRC's Delegate-General for Asia and the Pacific.

"The flow of goods and people across the lines separating government -controlled from LTTE-held territory has come to a virtual standstill in the North owing to restrictions imposed by both sides," he said in Geneva on Tuesday, on his return from Sri Lanka.

"More than 200,000 people are estimated to have fled their homes because of the most recent fighting."

"The ICRC had urged the parties to the conflict to improve access to the peninsula but they had failed to agree on whether to open up land or sea routes," Meister said.

"Some economic activity has resumed and the schools have re-opened following the recent relaxation of the curfew in Jaffna."

"However, the limited amount of supplies reaching the peninsula has led to price increases that have hit the poorest sections of the population especially hard," he pointed out.

The main supply route from the South to the North, the A9 highway, which passes through LTTE-controlled Wanni region, has remained closed, though recently, some goods and people have moved through a limited opening.

But there is no access to the Jaffna peninsula in the north because the road is closed at the northern end in Muhamalai.

There is a fear of military operations there.

Therefore, supply lorries cannot go very much beyond Kilinochchi.

The government had begun using the sea route round the island, and one vessel with 1,600 tonnes of supplies was sent to Jaffna.

But the LTTE said that it had difficulty in allowing the use of the sea route past its territory, and suggested the use of the land route instead.

And the government is yet to take a decision on this issue.

In the meanwhile, it has loaded a second vessel with 3,800 tonnes of relief material and food, and is waiting for clearance from the LTTE and an ICRC escort.

First Published: Sep 06, 2006 19:24 IST