Escalating Conflict in Sri Lanka
In the summer and fall of 2006 the news from Sri Lanka is discouraging. The cease fire between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan Government has ended.
In the summer and fall of 2006 the news from Sri Lanka is discouraging. The cease fire between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan Government has ended. The 20 plus years of conflict over the Tamil demand for autonomy has reignited. Fighting over territory and resources (water) has escalated and has resulted in many civilian deaths in the northern and eastern regions. The bombings, abductions, and extrajudicial killings have displaced or isolated many families and communities in the north and east.
The Sri Lanka government has closed the main road from Colombo to Jaffna which is the route by which food and supplies are delivered to the north. Travel and transport of materials must be by ship which is more expensive, less convenient and closely controlled by government troops. Gasoline no longer available in Jaffna. Schools have been closed and access to hospitals and clinics is limited to 2 or 3 hours each day. A curfew is imposed from 6 PM until 6 AM around Jaffna. Food prices have skyrocketed due to the closing of the road to Colombo (prices are 4 to 6 times more than normal). The poor are unable to afford food. Infant formula is scarce. Pastors in the Jaffna area are organizing hunger relief programs for the poor. Week of Compassion and One Great Hour of Sharing are sending support for the hunger relief programs. Fear and intimidation have paralyzed the Tamil Community and also threatens the Muslim community in the east. The Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera reports that children are being forcibly conscripted and that women and children are suffering disproportionately from the lack of food and security.
1. Shortage of food: This is severely affecting the poor who usually spend 80-90% of their daily income on food. The income of the people is also limited as a result of restriction on fishing and agriculutre(in the HSZ and adjoing camps) The basic food items like Rice, sugar, Dhall have increased by 5 times (Rice is 150/= Sugar is 350/= etc) As a result the poor are having food only once a day and some once in two to three days. The food items which the government says it sends, are insufficient. Out of the food that is transported through KKS harbour only a portion of it reaches the civillians.
2. Shortage of Drugs: The Health Ministry states that the allocations requested have been sent. It is true and the Heads of Medical Institutions are made to say it. But the fact is we had a very large population taking drugs from the private sector. The prvate ector has not been able to bring drugs from Colombo. Therefore the sector that was using drugs from the private sector are noweating into the hospital drugs. Finally the poor are sufferring without drugs like; antihypertensives, cardiac, anti diabetic drugs.
3. Shortage of fuel: Fuel is given in limited quantities. Since I came to Jaffna one month ago, I have got only 2 litres of petrol. You can imagine the plight of the ordinary person! As a result of fuel shortage transport is affected. Electricity is available for about 6 hours a day (5-7 am & 6-10pm). Sometimes this is also cut down. Buses are also limited
4. Curfew: This is imposed from 6 pm to 5 am. Law abiding citizens cannot move about. But robberries, killings etc all take place during that time. No one is arrested!
Reopening of the A9 is the only immediate solution. Ship is not a cheap or easy transport. It will probably help the government to control and help someone to pilfer what is coming in. The ships could also be used to transport items other than food for the civillians.Further during the next few months, the monsoon will set in and ship transport will be interupted.
If the A9 is not opened we will have major health problems. There are 60 camps with displaced persons 24 of them house the displaced after August 2006. Among them there are about 50 pregnant mothers. I followed up two who delivered last month. One baby was 2300 g and the the 2550g The mothers are malnourished. This situation is going to worsen.