Trapped civilians urgently need humanitarian pause in fighting.
Oxfam International is providing emergency relief to over 36,000 civilians who have fled fighting between Sri Lankan troops and LTTE rebels in the past few days, amid fears for thousands more women, men and children trapped behind rebel lines and exposed to deadly dangers from the constant clashes.
Working closely with Sri Lankan partner organizations, Oxfam is providing clean water, sanitation and public health assistance to families arriving in government-controlled areas, as well as cooked food and other essential relief items. Plans are in place to assist up to 60,000 more.
However, over 50,000 civilians may still remain trapped in a small, heavily crowded rebel-held enclave in northeast Sri Lanka, where the humanitarian situation appears catastrophic. Hundreds have been killed or injured in the past few days. Children are dying of untreated wounds as well as a lack of clean water and unhygienic conditions. Oxfam called on all parties to pause in their battle to allow trapped civilians to leave safely and for humanitarian workers to reach the sick and wounded.
“For each day that passes without any pause in the fighting, families are paying with their lives,” said Joan Summers, Oxfam Country Director in Sri Lanka.
International humanitarian law obliges all parties to the conflict to permit safe civilian evacuations and humanitarian access, and to respect the lives and neutrality of all non-combatants.
Oxfam urged the Sri Lankan government to rapidly and significantly increase the humanitarian relief effort, allowing both national and international aid workers safe and unhindered access to affected families.
Oxfam also urged the international community to help affected civilians by pressing for a humanitarian pause in the fighting by and supporting efforts to provide the 250-300,000 Sri Lankans displaced by the war with adequate emergency relief and longer term recovery assistance.
For more information, please contact:
Alexandra Lopoukhine, 613-850-9723