COLOMBO – A sea route to deliver United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) relief food to thousands of people in Sri Lanka was recently opened - a major boost to efforts underway to reach hungry people displaced by the recent escalation of hostilities in the region.
Yesterday, 40 metric tons of WFP food - enough to feed some 80,000 people for a day - was delivered by sea to the government-designated safe zone in the Vanni. Another ship is planned tomorrow.
“Now the challenge is to sustain this activity and ship sufficient quantities of food to meet the needs of tens of thousands caught in the conflict,” said Adnan Khan, WFP Representative and Country Director in Sri Lanka, adding that WFP’s goal is to deliver up to 300 metric tons of food commodities per week by boat.
As most displaced persons are now concentrated in a new safe zone along the eastern coastline of Mullaitivu district, the sea route is an important alternative route to reach those in need. In mid-February, the Government of Sri Lanka shipped some 30 metric tons of food on a pilot basis, followed by two smaller 10 metric ton shiploads of WFP food sent aboard an ICRC flagged boat.
WFP food assistance is also meeting the needs of displaced persons in government-controlled areas in the Vanni. Since the fighting intensified in January this year, about 36,000 displaced persons have fled to government-controlled areas and are being accommodated in transit centres/welfare villages in Vavuniya, Jaffna and Mannar. WFP is supporting the ‘communal cooking initiative’ in these centres by providing a food basket consisting of dry rations. So far, 145 metric tons of mixed food commodities have been provided to 11 transit camps/welfare villages and WFP has also pre-positioned food in Vavuniya to meet emergency needs.
Since September 2008, WFP has been delivering food to the Vanni by road convoys, however the recent escalation in hostilities has made further road convoy movements difficult. The last road convoy went on 16 January.