Overcrowded camps, and shortages of water are taking a devastating toll on the 60,000 children who have survived the war in Sri Lanka says Suresh Bartlett, National Director of World Vision Lanka.
Mr Bartlett, who recently returned from visiting camps in the North, said he was deeply troubled about the impact of the war on children.
“There are almost 200,000 survivors in the camps in the North who have endured a most brutal experience after being trapped in a conflict zone for weeks. At least 60,000 children are among them.
“It is almost impossible to understand what these children have been through. Can you imagine what it must be like for a child to flee a conflict zone, to live in constant fear, to see your parents terrified and to go without meals and water for days? Even before this latest turn of events many of these children have been displaced numerous times over the years. Some have never known what it is to have a proper home or to live in safety.”
Mr Bartlett said World Vision was already meeting the needs of many families with assistance, including water, supplementary foods, and shelter - but much more was necessary from all international aid agencies. The camps were overflowing and the government was asking for assistance from the aid community.
“We are setting up special tents where children can learn, play and try to re-establish a sense of normality in their lives. But we’d like to do much more for children,” he said.
Mr Bartlett said: “I am extremely concerned that if we don’t seize this opportunity to help the war survivors of this long-running conflict, and especially the children, they will continue to suffer and struggle to find ways of overcoming poverty. It is critical that we urgently commit the money to meet their needs. This will not only help bring healing but also create an environment for peace and reconciliation.
Date first published: Friday 1 May 2009