SRI LANKA (May 21, 2009) – Thousands of lives are at risk in Sri Lanka because aid to internally displaced people is being restricted by difficulties in securing access for staff and vehicles, 14 major international aid agencies said today.
As a result of the restrictions, agencies cannot adequately provide urgently needed services including food and water to people who are almost totally reliant on aid.
David White, deputy country director of Oxfam in Sri Lanka, said: "The camps in Sri Lanka are huge. They stretch over 1,000 acres and take nearly an hour to walk across. Without vehicles we can't do our work properly and that's putting lives at risk.
"Thousands of people are arriving from the war zone in a very weak condition. We're very worried about their health, with small children and the elderly being particularly at risk. Keeping aid agencies out will only make their condition more critical.
"We're asking the Sri Lankan government to adhere to the guiding principles agreed by them with the humanitarian community, and to let us do our job properly."
As UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon prepares to visit the camps, the agencies called on the Sri Lankan government to allow better access to the camps and to drop the restrictions, which have been in place since the weekend.
The camps in the north of the country are still expanding with traumatised people pouring in from the conflict zone. They already hold 270,000 people. The military have told aid agencies to expect up to another 50,000 internally displaced people in the next few days. The new arrivals are the people who were held in the conflict zone by the Tamil Tiger rebels until their defeat on Sunday.
For more information contact:
In Sri Lanka, Malcolm Rodgers +94 7733 15515
In the UK, Sean Kenny +447766 443 506
Notes to editors:
The agencies signing on to this press release are: Oxfam, ASB/Solidar, Acted, Danish Refugee Council, ZOA Refugee Care, Forut, UMCOR, Relief International, Handicap International, Save the Children, Welthungerhilfe, CARE, World Vision, Medical Teams International.