Sri Lanka: 250,000 People In War Zone Need Food

Despite very limited access to the displaced people in the northern Vanni region, WFP has organized 11 convoys since September and is looking for other innovative ways to deliver vital food assistance to those in need.

ROME -- Around 250,000 people are in need of food assistance in the northern Vanni region of Sri Lanka due to conflict and crop failure caused by flooding.

People have been forced to flee their homes in the region since the upsurge in conflict between Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tiger rebel movement.

Livelihoods have been almost completely lost, exacerbating the general food insecurity, and traditional coping mechanisms have been exhausted. People depend almost entirely on humanitarian food assistance for survival.

WFP has had only very limited access to the displaced people in Vanni since the Sri Lankan government asked the UN to leave the Vanni region in September 2008, before it began a major offensive.

Since then, WFP has organized UN Humanitarian convoys to take essential food and non-food relief items to around 230,000 IDPs inside the conflict zone. Some 8,200 metric tons (MT) of mixed food commodities were delivered in 11 convoys.

However the security situation in Vanni continues to be highly volatile and the 11th convoy became trapped in the conflict zone on 16 January. As a result, the main convoy could only return one week later.

Heavily mined roads and lack of sufficient security guarantees have prevented further WFP convoys leaving for Vanni. However, on 29 January, the Sri Lankan government organized a convoy which included 13 trucks carrying 153 MT of WFP food. The convoy safely reached the Vanni town of Puthokuddyruppo.

WFP continues to discuss with the Sri Lankan arrmy and other humanitarian partners to come up with innovative solutions to continue supplying the much needed food assistance to the displaced without an unacceptable level of risk to its staff and assets.