04/25/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Vanni, government asks for international aid. Tamils issue accusations against authorities

by Melani Manel Perera
The humanitarian crisis in the war zones is becoming increasingly serious. The Tamil Tigers say about 165,000 civilians risk dying of hunger; accusations against the government, which is "deliberately" blocking aid. Colombo clarifies that care for refugees is a "priority," and it is preparing a postwar plan.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The government of Sri Lanka is asking for aid from the international community and local NGO's, in order to confront the flood of refugees fleeing from the war. The Tamil Tigers say that 165,000 civilians, belonging to about 40,000 families, risk dying of hunger and deprivation within the area controlled by the rebels; the Tigers accuse the authorities of Colombo, who are "deliberately" depriving the refugees "of food and other basic necessities."

The refugees in the no-fire zone are living in desperate conditions: they lack food, drinking water, clean clothes, biscuits, medicine, and medical assistance. Televisions in the country are transmitting images of people reduced by hunger, exhausted, sick, and without any hope of rescue. The rebels attack the government, accusing it of "deliberately" striking the population in order to wear down the resistance.

The rebels speak of "targeted bombings" and "artillery strikes" on the roads and supply routes used to carry aid to the needy. For its part, Colombo maintains that the "care for civilians" in the war zones is a "priority." The only certain thing in this exchange of accusations is the desperate condition of the refugees; Sir John Holmes, head of the UN agency for humanitarian aid, intends to visit the area today to assess the situation.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, minister of the Sinhalese Disaster Management and Human Rights office, says that as of April 24, there are 193,960 refugees, referred to as "Internally Displaced People." Over the past four days, 105,274 civilians have fled the no fire zone, 75% of whom have been entrusted to the care of government agencies. The rebels speak of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, similar to "the one in Darfur, and even more serious."

Colombo pledges that it intends to guarantee "the immediate needs" of the population, including medical care and drinking water. The government has also announced its intention to create a postwar plan in order to permit a gradual return to normality for the refugees in Vanni. According to the most recent data provided by the United Nations, over the past three months of war about 6,500 civilians have died. The war between pro-independence rebels and the central government broke out in 1983, and has become more serious over the past three years. The campaign launched by the government army is in its final phase: the last pockets of resistance could be cleared out soon, at the price of thousands of broken human lives.

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