Sri Lanka’s brutal 26-year conflict has been escalating since January this year, plunging the northeast of the country into a deep health and humanitarian crisis. Fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), who want a separate state for the country’s minority Tamil population in the north and east of the island, has intensified.
Civilians are forcibly being prevented from leaving by the LTTE, who are opening fire on those who try to escape. They are also being shelled by the Sri Lankan army despite residing in a government-declared no-fire zone. Many are sheltering in dirt bunkers and under plastic sheeting with little access to sanitation, food, and clean water, and are at increased risk of infectious diseases.
The UN estimates that 4,500 civilians have been killed in the conflict in the past 3 months, and 12,000 have been wounded. According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), based on interviews with people in the country, the Sri Lankan Government has repeatedly shelled areas crowded with civilians, including a government-declared safe zone and several hospitals. (On 3rd February a crowded hospital was shelled three times killing 52 civilians and injuring many more according to ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross). Both sides deny shelling the hospital. Sadly these tragedies are becoming all too frequent.) Additionally, some of the 63,000 civilians who have escaped the fighting to government welfare camps are being denied freedom of movement and access to information.
According to the Associated Press, the war has killed about 70,000 people. These numbers are devastating and heartbreaking. More importantly, understanding these numbers include innocent adults and children further makes the impact tragic.
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Sri Lanka contacts:
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Ian McInnes – 077 3870 387