SRI LANKA CARE aid worker killed in conflict

 Sri Lanka
 Emergency Response
 18th Mar 2009

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (March 18, 2009) – CARE is mourning the loss of R. Sabesan, a humanitarian worker who was killed yesterday in the no-fire zone in the conflict-affected area of northern Sri Lanka known as the Vanni.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the loss of our friend and colleague Sabesan,” said Nick Osborne, Country Director for CARE International in Sri Lanka. “We extend our heartfelt condolences and thoughts to his family and friends at this very difficult time.”

Mr. Sabesan was one of dozens of aid workers trapped in the conflict zone along with as many as 150,000 other civilians, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. After the withdrawal of agencies from the conflict zone in September 2008, Mr. Sabesan was amongst those staff members that were unable to leave the area. He continued to work alongside his CARE colleagues as an aid volunteer under the direction of the Government Agent, distributing aid and providing support to affected people.

Mr. Sabesan, 24, had been working for CARE as a caretaker in the Mulliativu District office since March 2005. Yesterday afternoon in the no-fire zone, Mr. Sabesan’s leg was severed as a result of shelling, and due to a lack of access to the necessary medical care, he later died. His funeral was held today.

“The toll this war is taking on civilians is devastating,” said Osborne. “Humanitarian workers trapped in the conflict zone are just as much at risk as anyone else, and we are receiving regular reports of family members, friends and colleagues who have been injured or killed in the fighting. People need immediate access to medical care, food, and emergency supplies."

Hundreds of people have been reportedly killed or injured in the conflict zone. Food and supplies have almost run out. Civilians who try to leave are unable to do so, and are instead forced to shelter in rain-filled trenches in a desperate attempt to escape the fighting. Many of those attempting to flee are being prevented by the LTTE.

CARE is working with the government and other aid agencies to provide urgently needed food and emergency supplies to civilians who manage to escape the fighting. CARE calls for all sides to allow civilians to safely leave the conflict zone and to ensure the safety of civilians who remain caught up in the fighting.

CARE is an independent, non-political humanitarian organization that has worked in all parts of Sri Lanka since 1950. Throughout the 25-year conflict, CARE has provided support to conflict-affected communities in northern and eastern Sri Lanka through food production, infrastructure rehabilitation, savings and credit, income generation, and emergency assistance such as shelter, access to water and sanitation facilities.

Media contacts:
Melanie Brooks (Geneva), +41.795903047, brooks@careinternational.org

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