UN Concerned About Sri Lanka, Sending Holmes to Help

United Nations, New York, 24 April 2009 – Daily Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General. The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, will travel to Sri Lanka tomorrow for a three-day mission.
There, he will discuss issues of pressing importance with the Government of Sri Lanka, including the need for the Government to actively facilitate humanitarian missions to the conflict area, access to those displaced persons at screening centers, the release of UN staff members detained in camps, and the humanitarian response to the situation in the camps for Internally Displaced Persons.
Meanwhile, Neil Buhne, the UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka is scheduled to travel to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka today.
The United Nations mission to the conflict zone referred to by the Secretary-General yesterday, is a mission by the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka itself, not a mission from outside.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the humanitarian situation in the Vanni continues to be critical. Civilian casualties have been tragically high, and their suffering horrendous. Fighting continues to be reported.
Civilians remaining in the conflict zone, which we estimate at least 50,000 are in extreme peril.
The security situation in the conflict zone has not allowed for humanitarian assistance to be delivered since 1st April 2009. However 30 metric tons is planned for delivery today.
The United Nations continues to be concerned about malnutrition and health issues, and injuries for people still in the conflict zone and the evacuees.
The United Nations is also very concerned about overcrowding in the camps, and is continuing to work with the government to identify new sites and advocating that IDPs be allowed to go to host families.
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is preparing to ramp up its already sizeable humanitarian operations in Sri Lanka to address the needs of tens of thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting in the north-east of the country.
Plans include an emergency airlift of 5,000 family tents and other aid items from the refugee agency’s regional stockpile in Dubai to the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, for use in some 38 camps in and around the towns of Vavuniya, Jaffna and Trincomalee.

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