12/01/2010, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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The Red Cross closes its offices in Mannar and opens up to aid refugees

by Melani Manel Perera
The organization stops its activities in the Mannar district, one of the areas worst affected by the war ended in May 2009. It announces the closure of two offices in the country. But the commitment of the Red Cross to provide assistance to populations affected by conflict will not stop.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) yesterday announced the closure of its offices in the district of Mannar in northwest Sri Lanka, with immediate effect. The organization said that in the future - but no date has yet been established - the offices in Vavuniya and Jaffna in the north of the country, will also be closed. The decision comes 18 months after the end of the war, in May 2009.

November 15 last, Yves Giovannoni, president of the Red Cross office ensured that the organization will continue to address the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations, although the war is over. He said: " I do not see the ICRC continuing with the major setup it had during the conflict years, when the need for humanitarian aid was considerable " He added: " We have been discussing the eventual phase out of emergency relief with the government authorities, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and other agencies concerned. It is clearly understood that there will be a reduction of activities. "

Giovannoni said that the victims of war, displaced in the final stages of the conflict, are gradually returning to their homes and need help to rebuild their lives. The Red Cross will be right in this new phase of their existence.

The organization said it will continue to meet the needs of people arrested during the war, a visit in prison on a regular basis. In addition, it will help those left disabled during the conflict.

He added that the Red Cross carries out its work in full transparency with the government authorities, even in a transition period like this. He reiterated the importance of cooperation with the government to deliver aid directly to those who need it, consider whether their action was appropriate, ensure that there are no gaps.

Giovannoni finally specified that even if the organization has gradually reduced its presence since the end of hostilities, however, it still strives to meet the needs that have emerged in the wake of the conflict.

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