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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
Increasing concern for plight of refugees
"The plight of refugees is of increasing concern for international agencies. International refugee agency UNHCR's Peter Meijer has urged the government to ensure that food supplies reached the Vanni refugees and expressed fears that more people will pour out of Mannar Island. Lack of security and food is the major cause and thousands of refugees are trekking towards Mannar Island, says UNHCR. French medical agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says in an early September statement that there is an acute shortage of drugs and patients cannot be treated. The last shipment of drugs, 25% of the total requirement for Vanni, was in June.
The Defence Ministry has turned down recent requests for drugs from MSF and the ICRC. MSF Country Director Guillermo Bertoletti says only two weeks supply of medicine are available. Madhu has not received medical supplies since August and even basic items such as vitamins for pregnant women have not been allowed by the Defence Ministry. Aid workers fear an epidemic if outbreaks of water-borne diseases and malaria are not checked. As drought continues, clean water supply and sanitation are major concerns in the Vanni. In late September ICRC's water and sanitation head John Fleming warned of a major disaster and sought urgent clearance from the Defence Ministry for chlorine to purify water and spare parts for tube wells. Food is in short supply.
The continual movement of the population following military operations makes distribution difficult and food is not reaching many people. Vavuniya's senior government officer Government Agent (GA) Ganesh says that Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts need 2,126 lorryloads of food per month, but in September only 1,355 lorries were permitted at the crossing point at Thandikulam in Vavuniya.(British Refugee Council Publication - Sri Lanka Monitor September 1996)
"If exhausted refugees imagined that entry into Vavuniya town from Tiger-controlled Vanni region would bring them respite, they were sadly mistaken. After restrictions at Thandikulam checkpoint were lifted on 22 October, around 16,000 people from the north entered Vavuniya. All of them were held for screening in 11 refugee camps seven of which are schools. Currently 8,000 refugees remain in these camps. Around 1,800 have left for Trincomalee to travel to Jaffna and only 300 have been allowed into the capital Colombo. Over 400 young men and women have been detained in special camps for several weeks.
The camps are over-crowded and sanitary facilities almost non-existent. According to the Red Cross officer Sivanathan Kishore three children have died of disease. There are only few toilets and water supply is inadequate. Tearful refugees told visiting UNP MP Jayalath Jayawardena that they were being held like prisoners against their will.
... Pregnant women have been denied access to the hospital and one woman has died in labour. The Vavuniya hospital which has only six wards with 180 beds is currently treating over 1,500 patients a day. Many patients have to sleep on the floor. Sixty percent of the hospital staff were afflicted by a viral disease in early November. Reports say some doctors and nurses have not been paid wages for the last few months." (British Refugee Council Publication - Sri Lanka Monitor November 1996)
"THIRTY SEVEN people admitted to the Akkarayankulam hospital in Kilinochchi District died of disease in the last two months, reports say. The hospital which treated over 41,000 displaced people in November, continues to suffer from shortage of doctors and medicine.
The agony of over 400,000 refugees continues in the rains now lashing the Vanni. Although NGOs say there has been no major outbreaks of diarrhoea despite heavy rains, malaria is on the increase and there is a shortage of anti-malarial drugs. Several students who became ill during the GCE (Ordinary Level) examination were found to have contracted malaria.
Water supply to the refugees in the Vanni remains a problem. Though many wells are now replenished, rains have affected shelter construction and brought the danger of tanks overflowing. After a tank at Maniyarkulam in Kilinochchi was breached in mid-December, 300 families were forced to flee the area. NGOs face difficulty in water supply projects as the go vernment continues to deny permits to transport equipment from Colombo.
According to reports there is no significant improvement in the food situation in the Vanni. Following clashes in Kokkuveli, food lorries were denied permission for three days to pass Vavuniya in mid-December. Lorry owners say the Department of Essential Services continues to deny payment of Rs 2.5 million ($50,000) due to them and they may be forced to abandon transport of food.
Two civilians who went to see their house at Vinayagapuram in Kilinochchi died of Army shelling in late December. Three Jaffna refugees were shot dead by the Army on 28 December when they visited their places of residence in Kilinochchi." (British Refugee Council Publication - Sri Lanka Monitor December 1996)