11/26/2008, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Situation worsens for 300,000 refugees in Wanni

by Melani Manel Perera
In a war zone, people are living in temporary shelters with little food and little health care. There is even a lack of drinking water, and the risk of disease is growing. Humanitarian organizations criticize the government, and call for the sending of international observers.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The situation is growing worse for the refugees in Wanni, an area of fierce fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tiger rebels. More than 300,000 refugees are living in temporary camps, in the mud, with little food and without adequate health and sanitation services. Meanwhile, heavy rains have fallen on many villages in the area, destroying the harvest and submerging the roads so that even the essential corridors are blocked (in the photo).

According to the World Food Program of the United Nations, the refugees in Wanni receive food equivalent to 1,000 calories a day, about half the 2,100 calories needed. But experts observe that this is just a rough estimate, based on the 438 tons of food sent each week for 230,000 refugees.

Sam Zafiri, director of Amnesty International For the Asia-Pacific region, observes that "there's a big difference between what the government says and what seems to be happening. International organizations must be involved in the distribution of aid," because he maintains that the government is not capable of assuring adequate distribution, especially to the most needy, like children and nursing mothers. "International observers are needed" to verify that aid is truly being provided, since photos from the area show malnourished and nearly starving people, who are selling everything they have to buy a little bit of food. But they are also needed to monitor abuses being carried out against these families by the army and the rebels. About 35% of the crops in Wanni can no longer be reached because they are in a war zone.

On November 3, the government stopped a UN convoy bringing supplies, even though thousands of families are without these. There is even a lack of drinking water, which fosters the spread of disease.

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