Over the past month, tens of thousands of Sri Lankans have fled their homes in the country’s conflict-ridden north. The districts of Mannar and Kilinochchi are especially affected by the heavy fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Many humanitarian aid agencies in the region are finding it difficult to provide people with basic assistance.
Tens of thousands have been displaced by heavy fighting between Sri Lankan military and Tamil Tiger rebels
There seems to be no end to the displacements. Over years of conflict, people living in the Tamil-majority northern part of Sri Lanka have had to abandon their homes countless times. The United Nations say that 112,000 people have been internally displaced in the past two months. It warns that the figure could rise to 200,000.
But ”It’s very difficult to come up with precise figures of the displaced persons currently,” explains Aleksandra Matijevic, the Red Cross communications coordinator in Sri Lanka.
“Their numbers increase daily and also many of these people have been displaced several times. There are difficulties in gathering the numbers and also verify the numbers. We are aware that there are tens of thousands of people but it’s very difficult to be more precise than that”
Providing basic commodities
Many humanitarian agencies are in the area providing displaced people with basic commodities. For example, the German Workers' Samaritan Federation (ASB), whose director of foreign aid, explains that it is very difficult because people have to move as the frontline shifts: “They are fleeing from village to village and wherever they feel secured they are willing to settle”
Matijevic listed what people need in order to survive under these extremely difficult conditions: “The priorities for these people are access to clean water, sanitation, shelter as well as food and also to stay healthy and safe”
Apart from food, non-food items such as hygiene kits, or items for baby care are also essential.
The escalating conflict is making it increasingly difficult for humanitarian aid agencies to carry out their work. They are finding it harder and harder to gain access to the displaced people because the frontline is changing so fast.
“In order to get humanitarian assistance to the displaced people in Mannar and Kilinochchi districts, to those who need assistance most urgently in the current situation, it is important to stay in daily contact with both the government and the LTTE and it’s only through this continued dialogue that assurances for humanitarian organizations in terms of safety and access can be obtained,” explained Matijevic from the Red Cross.
Many humanitarian aid agencies seem reluctant to clearly express their political views about the conflict to the media. They want to carry out their work without attracting controversy.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the Sri Lankan civil war that has been raging on and off for 25 years.