UNESCO expresses concern

[TamilNet, Monday, 24 August 1998, 13:00 GMT]
UNESCO expressed its concern over reports that food distribution to Vanni by the Sri Lankan government (SLG) has been deliberately reduced. The organisation also urged the SLG to provide unhindered humanitarian assistance to the people of Vanni.

The opposition leader, Mr. Ranil Wikramasinghe, while speaking in a session in parliament on thursday 20th, said that people have to stand in a queue for three days to get seven-day staying pass when crossing over from LTTE held areas into government held Vavuniya. Another day has to be spent queuing to buy fuel to take back, since the government's new restrictions came into effect.

Even though four days of out of the week is spent in the government imposed process, which is supposedly intended to prevent LTTE infiltration, the Tigers seem to be entering Vavuniya without problems, he said.

Mr. Wikramasinghe demanded an explanation as to why food had not been sent to the Vanni area, and urged the government not create a Somalia-type situation by obstructing food deliveries.

Mr. Neelan Thiruchelvam (TULF) also appealed to the government to pay attention to the issue. He said that about 39,000 families had officially received rations in Mullaitheevu district earlier, but the number had now been reduced to 13,000 families. A similar situation prevails in Kilinochchi district, he said.

The displaced people live without the most basic of requirements, and the recent reduction in rations would severely hit children and pregnant mothers, said Mr. Thiruchelvam in parliament. He urged the appropriate ministries to work according to the guidelines of UNESCO.

At the same session, Vanni district MP Mr. Siddharthan, said that 415,000 people have been displaced in Vanni. The recent despatch of food, which was intended for a fraction of the displaced people, was expected to last only for three weeks, he said.

Mr. Siddharthan said that in June 1998, 3,370 barrels of fuel oil were sent to the area, but now this had been reduced to 1,700 barrels, and that a family would need at least 5 litres of oil a month for lighting purposes.

A litre of oil costs RS. 80 in the Vanni area, and one could not start any income generating ventures - not even fishing - because of the government's embargo, he said. Recently, a woman died as result of severe malnutrition he said, adding that medicine to treat and prevent malaria has also been banned by the government.

 

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