Hunger in the news

30 April 2009

Thousands of civilians remain trapped and at risk in a small area of the conflict zone along the northeastern Sri Lankan coast, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday. The civilians include women, children, and elderly, and many are wounded and sick, the ICRC said in a statement. (...) A Red Cross-chartered ferry brought 30 tons of food to the conflict area Tuesday, the ICRC said. The U.N.'s World Food Programme had donated the food to the Sri Lankan government.

27 April 2009

The Sri Lankan government has rejected a ceasefire declaration by rebels in the north, - saying it was a "joke", and the Tamil Tigers are close to defeat. (...) Aid workers have been barred from the area since the fighting escalated last year and the rebels say the government is deliberately blocking food aid - a charge the Sri Lankan authorities deny. Mr Rajapaksa told the BBC the Tigers were the "the losing side" and denied media reports that he had been stopping food supplies to trapped civilians. He said that he himself had asked the World Food Programme and the Red Cross to deliver relief to them. Images from surveillance drones showed there were 15,000 civilians left in the war zone, he added.

26 April 2009

According to official estimates, about 110,000 people have entered government-controlled areas over the past week, raising the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) in the government-held areas to more than 178,000. (…) World Food Programme (WFP), country director Adnan Khan said they always maintained a buffer stock of some 1,000 tonnes of food at a centre in Vavuniya and much more in their Colombo bases. “We do not foresee a food crisis at the moment, but things could change as the numbers keep piling on and therefore we have appealed for more assistance from the international donor community,” Mr. Khan told The Sunday Times. “We are facing the issue on two tracks. One is to send supplies to the IDPs in Vavuniya, Jaffna and elsewhere and the other to those still trapped in the safe zone. Our intention is to reach out to the safe zone as long as there are non combatants in that area and we are working closely with the authorities to this end,” Mr. Khan said. He added that a shipload of supplies intended for the safe zone was currently anchored at the Trincomalee port but that it maybe re-directed to the Jaffna peninsula due to security reasons.

24 April 2009

Since the government began its military offensive in mid-January, available reports suggest 5,000 civilians, including at least 500 children, have died, and 10,000 have been injured, according to the ICG. As with civilian casualties, there is a matter of dispute about how many civilians have fled the NFZ since media and international aid agencies have been barred access. The U.N. World Food Program says that given population movements, it is hard to be precise, but about 30,000 to 40,000 people reportedly have fled the NFZ to government controlled camps, where movement is restricted and it can take up to six weeks to see a doctor, according to Nimmi Gowrinathan, director of South Asia programs for Operation USA.

23 April 2009

The Obama Administration has urged the Sri Lankan authorities to show restraint and patience in these ''waning days'' of the 26-year-old conflict, to help find a diplomatic solution to the standoff that would allow the release of the civilians trapped in the no-fire zone. (...) Meanwhile the, United Nations has also stepped up efforts to help civilians who have fled the fighting. Its spokeswoman Marie Okabe said,''food aid through the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is well funded, but that shelter, water, health and sanitation needs are not.'' The UN World Food Program said it has enough food to feed 100,000 people for the next two weeks.

22 April 2009

International and Sri Lankan relief agencies told IRIN they were committed to continuing their assistance. "For the US government the assistance to the World Food Programme (WFP) is extremely important and we are committed to continue with it," Lona Middlebrough, spokesperson for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), told IRIN. USAID is the single largest contributor to WFP assistance programmes in Sri Lanka, the spokesperson said. In 2008 it contributed essential supplies valued at US$29 million and recently made a $15 million commitment of supplies due to arrive on the island in June.

22 April 2009

(...) Separately, the United Nations said it is stepping up efforts to help civilians who have fled the fighting. A U.N. spokeswoman, Marie Okabe, said food aid through the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is well funded, but that shelter, water, health and sanitation needs are not. The U.N. World Food Program said it has enough food to feed 100,000 people for the next two weeks.

9 April 2009

The Government is planning to begin the resettlement of civilians displaced by LTTE atrocities from Silavathurai in the Mannar district next month. According to Resettlement and Relief Services Minister Rishard Badhiudeen, the Ministry is making arrangements to resettle these civilians in par with the international standards. He said all civilians in 15 welfare camps in the Vavuniya district would be resettled in their original places of residence after the mine clearance process is completed. [...] The Minister said World Food Program’s Country Director appreciated the Government’s mission to ensure that IDPs are provided all basic amenities including food without any discrimination. “The WFP Country Director met me today and expressed his complete satisfaction over what the Government is doing for the welfare of civilians in the welfare camps and the people in the uncleared area,” he said.

9 April 2009

As fresh reports come in of civilian deaths from shelling in the "no-fire zone" on Sri Lanka's northeastern coast - where the military has confined Tamil Tiger rebels - the U.N. aid chief has warned of a "bloodbath". In a commentary for Britain's Guardian newspaper, John Holmes, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, wrote on Wednesday that "a bloodbath on the beaches of northern Sri Lanka seems an increasingly real possibility". [...] Food from the U.N. World Food Programme has been delivered by ship to the no-fire zone with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), but the United Nations says this is only around a quarter of what is needed.

7 April 2009

Tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside rapidly shrinking areas of combat between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in northern Sri Lanka are a major concern for the UN, a visiting top official said. “The conflict is still going on, large numbers of people are being trapped in the Vanni [combat zone],” Walter Kaelin, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), told reporters in the northern town of Vavuniya on 4 April. [...] On 3 April, World Food Programme (WFP) dispatched 1,000MT of food into the combat zone, the single largest shipment since the sea convoys began. WFP stated in a press release that since February 2009, more than 2,200MT of supplies - sufficient to feed 132,000 people for 20 days - had been sent to the combat zone with the assistance of the government in ships flying the ICRC flag.