Sri Lanka

UK pledges humanitarian support for Sri Lanka

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DFID Minister Mike Foster today announced a package of emergency humanitarian support for the civilian population in Sri Lanka affected by the ongoing conflict between the Government and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

As many as 250,000 Sri Lankans have been displaced by the conflict, with those in the north of the country being repeatedly forced to move to safer areas as the lines of the conflict change.

Mike Foster said:

"The conflict in Sri Lanka continues to take a toll on thousands of innocent civilians who are forced from their homes and can't access adequate food and shelter. Renewed violence in the Vanni region in the north of the country has considerably increased the level of humanitarian need and the onset of the rainy season will only make this worse.

"I call on all parties to abide by their obligations under International Humanitarian Law and allow unfettered humanitarian access to the conflict affected region. A full UN humanitarian assessment of the needs of those displaced should take place as soon as possible."

Over the next six months, the UK will provide £2.5 million for the international emergency humanitarian response in Sri Lanka. This is a flexible funding package which will respond to the changing situation on the ground by ensuring that money is channelled through the UN agencies, Red Cross and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) best placed to deliver assistance.

Emergency food convoys are slowly starting to arrive in Vanni, but in order to assist all those in need, in the region of 75 lorries are required every week. UK support will be coordinated with other donors and will include support to the convoys, providing basic shelter and enabling access to clean water and sanitation.

Notes to editors

1. Sri Lanka has been in conflict for over 25 years.

2. Last month the Government of Sri Lanka requested that all UN agencies and NGOs withdraw from the Vanni region of the country as their safety could no longer be guaranteed. Only the International Committee of the Red Cross remains on the ground.

3. There is no bilateral UK development programme in Sri Lanka. DFID contributes £1.5 million to a joint DFID/Ministry of Defence/Foreign and Commonwealth Office Peace Building Strategy and has provided £1.25 million over 2007-2008 in humanitarian assistance.

4. On Boxing Day 2004 the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit Sri Lanka, killing 35,000 people and displacing over 500,000.

5. The £2.5 million commitment will be allocated to the UN, Red Cross and NGOs in the coming weeks. It will benefit 200-250,000 people in the Vanni and other parts of the country. The funding will be used to pay for relief convoys and provision of emergency basic shelter, water and sanitation, cooking sets and access to healthcare e.g. relocating healthcare units closer to the population. $75 would buy a basic household kit (soap, cooking pots, blankets, plastic sheeting) - this does not include any additional costs e.g. transport.

For further information, contact Sarah Saxton on 020 7023 0944 or 020 7023 0600, e-mail pressoffice@dfid.gov.uk or call our Public Enquiries Point on 0845 300 4100.