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6 March 2009

The UN says that it estimates that thousands of civilians have been killed and wounded in the conflict in the north-east of Sri Lanka. The UN's US-based Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says civilians continue to lose their lives within the war zone. [...] "The world body has no verifiable numbers due to lack of access for relief workers, but estimates that thousands have been killed and wounded," the UN News Centre said. "The (government-designated) no-fire zone is believed to be very squalid and overcrowded and the UN has received information that people are dying from lack of food.


5 March 2009

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) organised the eighth sea evacuation of sick and wounded civilians and their dependents from combat areas on 4 March, but officials warned the situation was dire. [...] The ICRC established the ferry service in February with the assistance of the Navy when evacuation overland was halted because of security fears. The ferry service has also been used by World Food Programme (WFP) to transport food into the combat areas. Heavy fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Vanni Pocket in the Mullaithivu District in northern Sri Lanka has forced tens of thousands to flee. More than 36,000 have fled the fighting since January to safer areas behind government lines, but thousands remain trapped. The ICRC estimates that up to 150,000 persons are still in the Vanni Pocket.


27 February 2009

Up to 85,000 civilians trapped in northeastern Sri Lanka could flee the war zone in coming weeks as the army closes in on rebel-held territory, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday. [...] Some 36,000 displaced Sri Lankans have already fled to government-controlled areas of Vavuniya and Jaffna, according to the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP), which delivered 40 metric tonnes of food by tugboat to the northern government-designated safe zone in the Vanni area on Thursday. It was its first delivery in six weeks after WFP land convoys were interrupted by the fighting on January 16, WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella said. The agency hopes to deliver up to 300 metric tonnes of food per week, she said.


23 February 2009

Food convoys for thousands of displaced in Sri Lanka’s north remain suspended after more than a month, despite rising concerns over a growing food crisis. “The security situation since 16 January has not been conducive for food convoys to go in,” Adnan Khan, country representative for the World Food Programme [WFP] said in Colombo, citing concerns over small arms fire and possible landmines en route. [...] Earlier this month, the UN food agency warned that the entire population of the Vanni faced a food crisis. “Food assistance is urgently needed for those still trapped in the conflict zone,” Khan told IRIN. “The resumption of convoys will only be possible if there is a lull in the conflict, but right now that’s not happening.” According to the UN, tens of thousands of civilians remain in the Vanni after heavy fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland since 1983.


22 February 2009

A top United Nations official condemned a kamikaze rebel attack on Sri Lanka's capital and urged both sides in the nation's civil war to avoid a "final bloodbath." Hours later, suspected Tamil separatists killed eight people in a shooting and stabbing attack. [...] Mr. Holmes, who met top government officials and visited displacement camps south of the fighting, said not enough food and other aid was reaching the trapped civilians, and he raised concerns about the heavy military presence at the camps for the more than 30,000 civilians who have fled the war zone. He promised the U.N. would send $10 million in emergency aid for food, medicine, shelter and other necessities for the displaced civilians, and urged both sides to ensure an orderly end to the conflict.


19 February 2009

The United Nations humanitarian chief John Holmes held talks with leaders in Sri Lanka on Thursday and said he was gravely concerned for thousands of civilians trapped in the island's war zone. Holmes met Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama after the Tamil Tiger rebels suffered a series of defeats that have left their decades-long campaign for an independent Tamil homeland in tatters. [...] The government estimates 42,000 people have sought safety in areas under their control, while about 70,000 civilians remain inside the conflict zone. The UN also launched an appeal on Thursday to raise 155 million dollars to fund aid projects in the regions of Sri Lanka devastated by the fighting.


18 February 2009

Tamils in the US will hold a demonstration in front of the state department and the White House here on Friday protesting against the "genocide" against their community in Sri Lanka. Tamils Against Genocide', a pro-Tamils organisation, will organise a rally and hunger strike to urge US President Barack Obama to bring an end to the "genocide" in northern Sri Lanka, where the Army and LTTE are engaged in a war. [...] Tamil Americans and their friends would descend on Washington to fast in solidarity with Tamils in Sri Lanka, who are experiencing a food crisis according to the World Food Programme, [the group said in a statement].


15 February 2009

The International Committee of the Red Cross is in talks with the Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebels on resuming food convoys to civilians caught in war zones after halting deliveries last month amid increased fighting. [...] The last ICRC-escorted convoy, carrying food provided by the World Food Programme, went into the areas on Jan. 29.


13 February 2009

It's been eleven days since Priya Suntharalingam, a Winchester High School junior, has eaten a meal. The petite 17-year-old is the youngest of eight ethnic Tamils in the country who are fasting to call attention to the plight of their countrymen in Sri Lanka, an island nation off the coast of India where some 300,000 members of the Tamil minority are trapped in the fighting between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebel army. [...] In recent weeks, hundreds of noncombatants are believed to have been killed in the fighting; the Sri Lankan government has reportedly bombed hospitals, and a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber blew herself up at a refugee camp. The Sri Lankan military has been reluctant to let World Food Program convoys into the war zone, insisting that a humanitarian pause would let the rebels regroup or escape.


12 February 2009

Sri Lanka's army has disbanded the mostly ineffective "safe zone" it had established in the war-wracked north and set up a new refuge for the tens of thousands of civilians still trapped. [...] Aid groups estimate that about 200,000 civilians are trapped in the war zone. The government says the figure is about half that number.