The Humanitarian community of Sri Lanka has expressed its grave concern on the plight of the trapped civilians in Northern Sri Lanka as Sri Lankan forces geared for a final battle.
In a statement issued last Thursday, the humanitarian community of Sri Lanka said it was "deeply concerned over the plight of an estimated 250,000 displaced in the Wanni. In addition to concerns over their physical safety, access to healthcare and other services has become limited as fighting has seriously affected the supply of critical food aid and medical supplies, and has exacerbated the already dire shelter, water and sanitation situation. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continues to prevent civilians from leaving areas under its control, denying the right to seek safety in other parts of the country."
"The humanitarian community calls on the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to accord priority to ensuring the safety and security of all civilians. The humanitarian community calls on the government and the LTTE to respect the 32 square kilometre "safe zone", within the Wanni, announced by the government on Thursday the 22nd of January."
Over the last week civilians have been moving into this area, but reports of shelling and fighting in the safe zone continue.
"We call upon the LTTE to allow full freedom of movement to all civilians, and to allow safe passage for those wishing to leave the conflict area. We ask the government to provide civilians with information on safe routes out of the conflict zone, with internationally assisted humanitarian corridors that would provide safety measures for civilians coming out of the conflict zone seeking protection," it added.
"We also request the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure reception of civilians in accordance with international standards," the statement concluded.
The rapidly changing ground situation has posed a real threat to the civilians in the region whose lives are now in grave danger as they are at risk of getting caught up in the shelling and crossfire as the theatre of war shrinks on a daily basis.
It is estimated that between 280,000 to 300,000 people are trapped in an area measuring less than 127 square miles. These civilians have been prevented from leaving the region by the LTTE who well know that their presence prevents the Sri Lanka Army from launching a full scale military assault.
The Sri Lankan forces and the rebel LTTE have been at war since 1983 following the latter’s bid to set up a separate state of "Tamil Eelam" in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
Date first published: Saturday 31 January 2009