Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka - ICRC Bulletin No. 14 / 2007

Source
Published
Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

25 May - 27 June 2007

General situation

The recent murders of two staff members of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society have shocked the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the wider humanitarian community in Sri Lanka. Sinnarasa Shanmugalingam and Karthekesu Chandramohanhad been in Colomboattending a training workshop organized by the Sri Lanka Red Cross. On 1 June, they were abducted by unknown men.Their bodies were found the next day in Kiriella in the district of Ratnapura. The ICRC's vice-president, Jacques Forster, and the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Markku Niskala, met the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse, in Geneva on 14 June to ascertain what steps were being taken by the Sri Lankan authorities to bring the guilty parties to justice.

Fighting between Sri Lankan security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continued in theTopigala area in the district of Batticaloa and in the Madhu and Valitikulam areas west of Vavuniya. In late May, the ICRC was forced by the deteriorating security situation to temporarily withdraw from the crossing points at Omanthai and Uyilankulam. It returned shortly afterwards and took up its task of facilitating the movement of civilians and goods between areas controlled by the government and by the LTTE.

Families from throughout the country continued to report abductions of relatives by unknown persons. Over the past month, the ICRC has transported the mortal remains of 39 combatants between areas controlled by the government and by the LTTE.

The return of internally displaced people to Batticaloa West proceeded smoothly. The third phase of resettlement for residents of Vavunatheevu, Mankikadu, Eechchenthivu and Nabatkad, which started on 15 June, was completed. According to the district authorities, so far about 75,000 people have returned to their homes.But 63,500 others are still displaced; they areliving either with host families or in camps for displaced persons.

The ICRC has been closely monitoring the resettlement operation. "This is the fourth time that I have been displaced with my family," said a resident of Mankikadu, at the transit point in the stadium in Batticaloa. "A neighbour told me that all the houses in our village had been looted and all the paddy seed stolen." Most returnees are worried about the condition of their property. Explosive remnants of war, including unexploded ordnance, are an additional source of anxiety for them.

Health

Health authorities in the Northern and Eastern provinces continued to receive support from the ICRC. A total of 67 persons, who were in need of specialized treatment, were flown from Jaffnato Colombo, as were over 300 laboratory specimens. Temperature-sensitive medicines such as vaccines and other items requiring refrigeration were flown from Colomboto the teaching hospital in Jaffnaand to government health services on the Jaffnapeninsula.

In the Vanni region, the ICRC provided first-aid medicines to health authorities in Kilinochchi and facilitated the transfer of more than 500 patients between areas controlled by the government and by the LTTE.

To ensure that returnees in Verugal, in the district of Trincomalee, had access to health care, the ICRC transported doctors from the hospital in Serunuwara to the Verugal dispensary three times a week.

In Batticaloa, the ICRC facilitated the transfer of five amputees from camps for displaced persons to the Handicap International centre, and transported three disabled persons to the teaching hospital in Batticaloa. The Sri Lanka Red Cross's night ambulance service transported 15 patients to hospitals.

Volunteers from the Sri Lanka Red Cross continued to promote good health practices and disease-prevention techniques in camps for displaced persons in Trincomalee and Batticaloa. The Sri Lanka Red Cross's ambulances continued to provide invaluable service in Vavuniya and Batticaloa.

Economic security

About19,000 displaced people in the district of Batticaloa were provided with 1,000 kits containing essential household items (metal buckets, hurricane lanterns, rope, jerrycans, towels, mats, bed sheets), 4,500 hygiene kits (washing powder, soap, shampoo, etc.), 650 baby parcels (baby soap, towels, baby lotion and powder, etc.), 220 tarpaulins and 1,300 additional jerrycans. Of these displaced people, 4,500 were living in camps set up by aid agencies and 4,800 with host families; 9,700 were returnees from Vaharai.

In Velaveli and Vavunatheevu in Batticaloa West, the ICRC distributed tarpaulin kits to about 1,700 returnees and reconstructed their homes with materials that had previously been used to build shelters in camps for displaced persons.

The ICRC provided much-needed items such as hygiene sets, kitchen sets, jerrycans and tarpaulins to about 19,000 displaced people in the district of Batticaloa and to another 9,000 in Trincomalee, Jaffnaand the Vanni region.

In the district of Trincomalee, about 850 persons received hygiene kits, baby parcels and tarpaulins, while about 150 persons living in Soorangar in Eachilampattai were given monthly food rations. In addition, 1,600 persons living in Dehiwatta and Samagipura (Seruvilla division) received seed, fertilizer and financial support to enable them to revive agricultural production.

In the Vanni region, approximately 1,200 families received 310 hygiene kits, 310 kits containing essential household items, 310 kitchen sets (kettles, cooking pots, kerosene stoves, cups, plates, etc.), 30 baby parcels and 310 tarpaulins. The ICRC provided financial support and distributed seed and fertilizer to 2,500 other persons to enable them to revive agricultural production.

In Jaffna, 600 mosquito nets, 180 baby parcels, 380 hygiene kits and 150 hurricane lanterns were distributed among 2,200 persons.

Water and habitat

The ICRC provided water, sanitation and temporary shelters for displaced persons in the district of Batticaloa. Returnees in Velaveli and Vavunaitivu were given 320 tarpaulin kits, each consisting of 2 tarpaulins, 3 poles and 6 ground pins.The construction of the camps for displaced persons in Kiran, Chenkalady and Manmunai divisions, north of Batticaloa, was completed. Three hundred rigid shelters in camps in Kaluthavale and Eravil Thoddam in southern Batticaloa were dismantled and the material used to reconstruct the roofs of returnees' houses.

In the district of Trincomalee, the ICRC continued construction work at the KiIlivetti camp for displaced people. At this camp, 60 shelters for about 300 personsand four bathing wells were built.

In Kilinochchi, the ICRC put up 80 shelters for about 400 persons, and cleaned and disinfected 24 open wells.

In Jaffna, the ICRC began work on the construction of six latrines and two tube wells and on the rehabilitation of two old wells in welfare centres, in Sandilipay district, where long-term displaced persons are housed.

Visiting detainees

The ICRC continued to visit people arrested for security reasons. Its delegates carried out 36 visits to 29 different places of detention where they registered or held private interviews with 466 detainees.

Restoring family links

The ICRC has been cooperating closely with the Sri Lanka Red Cross to restore and maintain contact between members of families separated by the conflict. Since 25 May, the ICRC has collected more than 1,000 family messages and delivered over 80.

ICRC presence at crossing points

The ICRC acted as a neutral intermediary to facilitate the crossing of nearly 15,600 civilians at Omanthai and Uyilankulam.

Cooperation within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

The ICRC's teams in the field continue to serve vulnerable people in areas of conflict. Volunteers from the Sri Lanka Red Cross regularly join them for assessments and distributions, as they did in the Anuradhapuraand Batticaloa districts; they also participated in a weeklong ICRC training course in assessment techniques.

For further information, please contact:

Davide Vignati, ICRC Colombo, tel. +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 77 728 96 82
Carla Haddad, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26
or visit our website: www.icrc.org