ASIA/ SRI LANKA - NGOs warn: new security measures slow down distribution of humanitarian aid to civilians with serious consequences for children

Monday, 3 September 2007

Colombo (Agenzia Fides) - Stricter security measures undertaken by Colombo and fresh outbursts of fighting between the Tamil rebels and the government troops are causing delays in the distribution of humanitarian aid. This is reported by NGOs working in Sri Lanka to assist thousands of displaced persons, victims of the civil war. The consequent increase in prices of food and fuel weigh on the people in Vanni, the four northern districts of Sri Lanka, the NGOs say.
According to the new legislative measures introduced by the government two months ago, goods transported from one conflict area to another must be unloaded and inspected and then re-loaded onto different trucks. According to the UN World Food Programme the measures are causing delays and failed distribution. Supplies destined for the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu have to pass through police checks which means that the number of trucks which reach the refugee camps every month has dropped from 300 to 120. Recent fighting has also affected the distribution of supplies. The main supply sorting points situated in between government and rebel controlled areas are only opened a few days a week or sometimes closed all together. Civilians in areas under the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE suffer a shortage of medicine and food for infants. In fact in this long conflict children are the ones who suffer most. According to a report issued by the ministry for Child Development and Women’s Empowerment in collaboration with UNICEF, assistance to children in public and private institutes is inadequate.
The Island has 488 private institutes: 52 of these care for abandoned minors with a disability and 19,000 adolescents live in these structures, and another 3,000 children live in 8 public institutions.
The Report says that most of these institutes are unable to offer adequate assistance: only 9,000 children are regularly visited by a doctor and receive adequate health care for their growth. More than 2,000 children and adolescents have no access to school instruction.
In Sri Lanka more and more children are being cared for in institutes since families are unable to care for them due to separation, family conflict, natural disasters such as the tsunami in December 2004. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 3/9/2007 righe 29 parole 293)