The Lanka Academic

 
AUGUST 25, 2006 EST, USA
 
QUAERE VERUM
 
VOL. 7, NO. 141

JAYANTHA DHANAPALA

Candidate for UN Secretary General from Sri Lanka.
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World Food program: 204,000 people displaced in Sri Lanka , food stocks running low
Associated Press, Fri August 25, 2006 12:42 EDT . CASSIE BIGGS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Fighting between Sri Lanka - 's Tamil Tiger rebels and security forces has forced at least 204,000 people from their homes in the eastern and northern parts of the country, the U.N. food agency said Friday.

The figure rose from about 182,000 to 204,000 in just a week and the numbers are still increasing, Jeff Taft-Dick, country director of the World Food Program, told reporters. He cited the most recent figures from the U.N.'s refugee agency.

The announcement came as an aid ship carrying 1,500 tons of food docked in Jaffna, where it was expected to take several days to unload. It was the first outside source of food to reach the besieged peninsula in nearly two weeks.

U.N agencies have put together an emergency contingency plan that predicts another 200,000 people will flee the fighting by the end of the year, Taft-Dick said.

Small scale skirmishes between Tamil Tiger separatists and security forces have been on the rise since December, but in June the military launched its first ground offensive since a 2002 cease-fire and the country was put back on a war footing.

Much of the fighting has revolved around the eastern port of Trincomalee and the Jaffna Peninsula, which the country's 3.2 million ethnic minority Tamils consider the heart of their culture, but which is controlled by the government.

Taft-Dick said there were still many areas controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels but cut off by the government that aid agencies have not been able to reach.

``We still don't know how many internally displaced people there really are,'' he said.

The government has said that it restricts access to conflict zones because it cannot guarantee the security of anyone who enters them, whether or not they represent aid agencies or commercial traders.

Since Aug. 11, the government has restricted access to the Vanni, a wide swath of Tiger territory in the north where about 37,000 people are living in temporary shelters after fleeing fighting in the northern Jaffna Peninsula.

Taft-Dick said the food situation there is becoming ``critical'' and aid agencies are unable to move relief supplies into the area because of government road blocks. He said besides the area's population of 350,000 there are now an additional 37,000 displaced in need of aid.

``The Vanni region has been cut off,'' he said. ``Only a few vehicles and staff have been able to get in, but no food, no fuel, no food supplies.''

He said there also was no access to Tiger-held areas north of Batticaloa, an eastern stretch of coast that was hard hit by the 2004 tsunami.

Several WFP programs had been suspended or scaled down to allow food stocks to be diverted to feeding the displaced. But in some areas, these would only last ``a couple of days,'' Taft-Dick said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross only recently has been able to reach people in places like rebel-controlled parts of the Trincomalee district on the east coast, agency spokeswoman Carla Haddad said in Geneva. Discuss this story
Published: Fri Aug 25 13:14:26 EDT 2006

Related News Stories
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Some aid shipments have reached Tamil-controlled areas despite obstacles: UN  - Associated Press

Sri Lanka evacuates foreign nationals
Reuters, Friday, August 25, 2006 - 23:14 EDT. The first aid ship to break a two-week siege of Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna peninsula has started to unload, while another Red Cross-flagged vessel headed in to evacuate foreign nationals. More than three weeks of fighting between the army and Tamil Tiger fighters has forced 180,000 people to flee their homes and created a humanitarian crisis in north and east Sri Lanka. With road links cut and sea and air links limited, shortages are rife. Air strikes and artillery continued in parts of the region on Friday. Diplomats say Sri Lanka's two-decade civil war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has now effectively resumed, and returning to a 2002 ceasefire seems unlikely unless both make concessions. A Reuters witness saw the ship anchored off the jetty at Point Pedro, on the northern edge of the Jaffna peninsula, as several barges that survived the 2004 tsunami began to ferry ashore around 1,500 tonnes of food for Jaffna residents. Officials said the ship would sail north out of the conflict area before nightfall, anchor and then return the next day to continue unloading. Curfew Most shops on the Jaffna peninsula have run out of food and some of its half-million people are down to one meal a day. For the last few days, the military has relaxed a curfew and allowed people out for five hours a day. Rajini Vethanayagam, a 40-year-old mother of three, said: "But what can we achieve in those five hours? "Nothing. Just wait in queues. Everywhere is very overcrowded, prices are high and most of the goods are not available." The United Nations world food programme - already providing food to an estimated 200,000 people displaced by the fighting - said it was also worried about rising shortages in Tiger-held areas of the north and east, with border crossing points shut and aid agency access sometimes blocked by the military. Jeff Taff-Dick, the WFP country director, said: "Without better access, WFP will not be able to continue feeding displaced persons living in areas outside of government control." He also said that high level meetings between the UN and the government had not solved the issue. Another small ferry flying the Red Cross flag sailed from the northeastern port of Trincomalee on Friday morning to evacuate the first 150 of an estimated 500 expatriates from Jaffna - mainly ethnic Jaffna Tamils with British or Canadian passports. The Red Cross said that with security guarantees from both sides, they were confident their neutrality would be respected. More...
Published: Fri Aug 25 23:13:50 EDT 2006 Back to the top

Aid workers, civilians register to leave Jaffna
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Gunfight in eastern Sri Lanka kills 5, as ferry set to leave for besieged north
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Nabbing Tigers - Editorial
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Bribe money in Tamil terror case originated from Montreal, FBI allege
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Rajapakse and Chandrika spar over party meeting invitation
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Sri Lankan air force strikes rebel base in north as truce monitors head there for talks
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Rebels, police trade fire in eastern Sri Lanka , 5 dead: military
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Departing ceasefire monitor chief slams EU in gloomy Sri Lanka outlook
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Tamil community fears backlash over arrests
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Two more Canadians arrested in Tamil affair
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Jaffna the fountainhead of Tamil separatism
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Davis: I've seen no evidence terrorist group funded Sri Lanka trip
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Rebel group funded congressman's trip to Sri Lanka, sources say
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Aid agency worker shot to death in eastern Sri Lanka , military says
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Sri Lanka Lifts Curfew in Areas of Jaffna as Fighting Eases
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