WFP ramps up food aid for thousands fleeing conflict in eastern Sri Lanka

Published on 20 March 2007

WFP is increasing its operations in Batticaloa District in eastern Sri Lanka to ensure that basic food supplies quickly reach persons forced out of their homes by recent intensified fighting.

WFP is increasing its operations in Batticaloa District in eastern Sri Lanka to ensure that basic food supplies quickly reach persons forced out of their homes by recent intensified fighting.

More than 155,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are now estimated to need immediate food and relief assistance in the conflict-affected area, according to the food aid organisation.

After all the suffering endured by the victims of the fighting in Sri Lanka, they should not be hurt further by a lack of international support and concern

Tony Banbury, WFP Regional Director for Asia, based in Bangkok, Thailand

“This latest influx of newly displaced persons presents us with a major humanitarian challenge,” said Tony Banbury, WFP Regional Director for Asia, based in Bangkok, Thailand.

“We will do everything we can to ensure that all these victims of the conflict – many of them women and children – get the assistance they so desperately need.”

Shelling intensified

For the last several months, WFP has supplied food aid to about 60,000 people living in camps in Batticaloa District – through the Sri Lankan Government’s Ministry of Nation Building and Development.

Recent intensified shelling in areas west of Batticaloa has forced an estimated 95,000 additional people to flee in the past week, more than doubling the number of internally displaced people.

“WFP urges the Government and the LTTE to guarantee unimpeded access by WFP and other humanitarian organisations to the displaced people,” said Banbury.

Reaching the displaced

“We will continue to work with our government implementing partner, operating in frontline areas, but in order to meet the new needs we will also bring forward our own transportation capacity and work with other partners, including NGOs, to reach all displaced persons.”

Banbury said that WFP would shortly begin transporting 590 tons of rice and wheat flour to Batticaloa District using its own trucks, adding that WFP’s available food stocks in Sri Lanka were dwindling.

“Unless we receive new funding very soon, we will run out of food supplies by the end of April,” Banbury said.

Lack of international support

“After all the suffering endured by the victims of the fighting in Sri Lanka, they should not be hurt further by a lack of international support and concern.”

In some districts, WFP has already been forced to put on hold its Mother and Child Nutrition and school feeding programmes in order to re-direct its limited resources towards the newly displaced. WFP has also suspended most food-for-work rehabilitation projects in the Indian Ocean tsunami -affected districts.

The Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Sri Lanka has only received 33 percent of its required funding for food assistance.

Conflict affected

Following the resumption of hostilities between the Government and the LTTE in August, WFP has significantly expanded operations to provide emergency food assistance to the most vulnerable displaced and conflict-affected people in Sri Lanka.

In addition to providing food in Batticaloa, WFP has distributed some 13,400 tons of food, sufficient to feed 300,000 people for three months, in Jaffna and to Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Trincomalee, Ampara and Vavuniya Districts.