Sri Lanka relief effort faces many hurdles

An internally displaced person receives medical treatment at a health clinic in the Manik Farm Camp in Vavunyia. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

An internally displaced person receives medical treatment at a health clinic in the Manik Farm Camp in Vavunyia. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

The United Nations humanitarian wing said yesterday that the overall scale of the relief operation in Sri Lanka, where nearly 300,000 people have been displaced by the recent conflict, remains “huge,” while an action plan for assistance still needs 60 percent of the requested funding.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also reported that since Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the country this past weekend, an interim measure has been agreed whereby aid agency vehicles including trucks can now travel in and out of all Menik Farms zones, only not in convoy and without agency flags.

Menik Farm is among the largest camp sites hosting internally displaced persons (IDPs) resulting from the fighting between Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Last week, the Government announced that its military operation against the Tamil separatists had ended.

OCHA also noted that it has been announced that the military will relocate out of the camps, turning over all camp management activities to civilian authorities.

The overall needs in the camps remain “acute,” the Office said, with the greatest needs being health posts, doctors and medical personnel, as well as water and sanitation facilities. Most people arrived in the camps with nothing, so distributions of non-food items like plates, cups and other basic household goods are also priorities when the trucks are re-entering the camps, it noted.

In a related development, the UN Human Rights Council today wrapped up its special session on Sri Lanka, adopting a resolution urging the Government to continue strengthening its activities to ensure that there is no discrimination against ethnic minorities.

The 47-member body also welcomed the Sri Lankan authorities’ resolve to start a broader dialogue with all parties, in order to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka, based on consensus among and respect for the rights of all the ethnic and religious groups inhabiting it.

In addition, the Geneva-based Council urged the international community to cooperate with the Government in reconstruction efforts, including by increasing financial aid.

Addressing the Council’s session Tuesday, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that investigating human rights abuses allegedly committed against civilians by both the Government and Tamil rebels will help the country transition into a new future, and that an “independent and credible international investigation into recent events” should be dispatched.

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