Feature Article

Vaharai children eat roast fish to quench hunger

[TamilNet, Monday, 20 November 2006, 00:05 GMT]
Faced with severe shortage of food and driven close to starvation, children in besieged Vaharai area in the LTTE controlled Batticaloa district, have started eating locally caught fish, after roasting them, in open fire under unhygenic conditions, Mr. Moorthy, the coordinator for Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) for Vaharai area said Sunday.

IDPs protesting in Vaharai. [Library Photo]

Children wander to shallow areas of lagoons and small ponds, catch fish, prawns and crabs, heating them in open fire, and eat them as their main meal without any other dish or cereal supplement. Parents suffer from psychological trauma witnessing the plight of their children, volunteers working with the refugees said.

The TRO volunteers said that seed paddy stored by farmers for the cultivation for season is being purchased to supplement the meagre food stock available to feed the refugees. Volunteers are helping to pound paddy seeds manually to separate the chaff, he further said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Moorthy predicts worsening of the food crisis and development of health emergency as the northeast monsoon sets in.

An IDP family with a child wounded in SLA artillery shelling. 47 Tamil civilians, most of them IDPs including children and women, who had sought refuge at Kathiraveli Vikneswara School, were killed in indiscriminate Multi-Barrel Rocket and artillery barrage from 3 directions on 08 November 2006.

Vaharai area experiences flood every year, and diseases inevitably afflict the people most of whom live below the poverty line.

If the area gets flooded while the number of refugees remain at the present levels, a human health disaster is inevitable. The only government hospital in this area, the Vaharai hospital, has no medical supplies left and would be unable to deal with the imminent health crisis after monsoon rains, Moorthy said.

Since the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) blocks food convoys to Vaharai area and refuses permission to take the patients to the hospitals in the military controlled area, many lives that can be saved are being lost away from the spotlight of humanitarian agencies, according to civil society sources.

Late September, SLA soldiers had blocked a one-year-old boy, a refugee from Trincomalee district injured by SLA shelling at Palchenai, to be taken to the nearby Valaichchenai district hospital to undergo urgent surgery to remove two shell fragments lodged in his body.

Subsequently, the surgery was carried out at Vaharai hospital with the limited facilities, and medical staff was able to remove only one shell fragment. The boy lives with the other shell piece still embedded in his body, according to a hospital volunteer nurse.

In another incident, a pregnant woman who started bleeding profusely before delivery was advised by the doctor in Vaharai hospital to be taken to Valaichchenai hospital. As the SLA did not allow the mother to travel, the woman was forced to go into labour at the Vaharai hospital and the doctors were only able to save the baby. The mother died during the child birth, according to hospital officials.

3,500 families in Vaharai and Kathiraveli areas, are leading a simple life, their main source of income are agriculture and fisheries. An additional 8,500 families of Internally Displaced Persons joined them after SLA launched offensive towards Mutur East and Eachilampattu in Trincomalee district.

A medical staff at Vaharai hospital, with limited facilities and a doctor, handles an amputation.

15.11.06  Vaharai starves


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