Sri Lanka: UN appeals for urgent funds to feed thousands displaced by fighting
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for vital funds to boost its operations in eastern Sri Lanka to ensure basic supplies for over 155,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in need of immediate aid after being uprooted by intensified fighting between the Government and Tamil separatists.
“Unless we receive new funding very soon, we will run out of food supplies by the end of April,” WFP Regional Director for Asia Tony Banbury said in Bangkok, Thailand, today, terming the need for additional contributions “critical and urgent.”
“After all the suffering endured by the victims of the fighting in Sri Lanka, they should not be hurt further by a lack of international support and concern,” he added.
The Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Sri Lanka has only received 33 per cent of its required funding for food aid and he called the latest influx a major humanitarian challenge. “We will do everything we can to ensure that all these victims of the conflict – many of them women and children – get the assistance they so desperately need,” he said.
For the last several months, WFP has supplied food aid to some 60,000 people living in camps in Batticaloa District through the Sri Lankan Ministry of Nation Building and Development. Recent intensified shelling west of Batticaloa in the over two-decades-long conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has forced an estimated 95,000 more people to flee in the past week.
“WFP urges the Government and the LTTE to guarantee unimpeded access by WFP and other humanitarian organizations to the displaced people,” Mr. Banbury said. “We will continue to work with our government implementing partner, operating in frontline areas, but in order to meet the new needs we will also bring forward our own transportation capacity and work with other partners, including NGOs [non-governmental organizations], to reach all displaced persons.”
In some districts, WFP has already been forced to put on hold its Mother and Child Nutrition and school feeding programmes in order to re-direct its limited resources towards the newly displaced. It has also suspended most food-for-work rehabilitation projects in districts ravaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
After renewed fighting between the Government and the LTTE in August, WFP significantly expanded operations to provide emergency food to the most vulnerable displaced and conflict-affected people in Sri Lanka. In addition to providing food in Batticaloa, WFP has distributed 13,400 tons of food, sufficient to feed 300,000 people for three months, in Jaffna and several other districts.