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Crisis in Sri Lanka
Posted on: Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Yesterday, tens of thousands of women and families began pouring out of the war zone in northern Sri Lanka, where they have been trapped for months. These families need our help immediately. They are traumatized and hungry. Many are sick and injured and have not had access to medical care, clean water, or shelter.
Over 100,000 people in northern Sri Lanka have been caught in the cross-fire between the army and opposition forces. More than 4,500 civilians have been killed in just the past three months.
Now, the military has scaled up its attack in an effort to wipe out the opposition, the Tamil Tigers, completely. The army is using heavy artillery in attacks on a small, densely populated area.
Hundreds of civilian casualties are being reported daily, including those caused by internationally banned weapons such as cluster shells, napalm bombs and phosphorus bombs.
"With this latest surge in fighting, our greatest fear is that the worst is yet to come," said UNICEF's regional director for south Asia, Daniel Toole.
Most fleeing the conflict wind up in transit camps that aren't equipped to cope with this sudden influx of people. The UN has expressed concern about conditions in the camps, where poor sanitation and shortages of water will hasten the spread of disease, and where government and aid agencies face a major challenge in getting enough food to those arriving - many of whom, particularly children, are already showing signs of malnourishment.
Government officials say that until they can be sure they have weeded out all Tamil Tiger members among the civilians in the camps everyone will have to be detained. A small number of elderly people have been released, but the camps are still home to thousands of children, pregnant women and elderly people.
MADRE is working with Inform, a Sri Lankan human rights organization. Following the 2004 tsunami, MADRE and Inform worked together to provide immediate relief and protection for women and families, as well as long-term psycho-social services in the aftermath of the devastation.
Inform needs to be there in order to guarantee that women's needs are met and that women aren't subject to one more abuse during the delivery of aid. Sri Lankan human rights activist Sunila Abeyesekera said, "the situation is desperate and we know that MADRE's supporters never turn their backs on these kinds of emergencies. We know they will help, please."
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'Catastrophe' in Sri Lanka (Video)