Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Vanni hospital evacuated - parties must do utmost to protect medical services and the wounded and sick

Colombo/Geneva (ICRC) - Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital, in the northern Vanni region, has been shelled repeatedly in the last 24 hours, forcing patients and staff to flee towards the north-eastern coast. "We are shocked that a medical facility has again sustained direct hits. We have grave concerns for the well-being and safety of those who fled," said Paul Castella, head of the Colombo delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "We call upon both parties to meet their obligation under international humanitarian law to spare and protect at all times the sick and wounded as well as medical facilities and their personnel."

Over 300 patients and hospital staff fled the premises of Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital this morning. Accompanied by 18 ICRC staff members, they made their way to a community centre in Puttumatalan, in the north-eastern Vanni - an area that lacks clean drinking water, which puts the displaced patients and medical staff at even greater risk.

The ICRC has repeatedly asked both parties to grant safe passage so that patients and medical staff can be evacuated. "Both sides have been reminded several times of their obligation to spare wounded and sick people, and medical facilities and their personnel," said Mr Castella. "But this needs to be put into practice in the field."

The ICRC is also seriously concerned about the plight of Vanni residents still trapped in an area enduring heavy fighting. The vast majority of them are displaced and completely dependent on aid brought in from outside the conflict zone. What they need first and foremost is a place where they are safe.

ICRC personnel remain in the Vanni, where they continue to provide support for Ministry of Health staff caring for the patients displaced from Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital.

For further information, please contact:

Sarasi Wijeratne, ICRC Colombo, tel: +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 773 1588 44

Sophie Romanens, ICRC Colombo, tel: +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 777 289 682

Simon Schorno, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 251 93 02