A United Nations food convoy today crossed into the Vanni region of northern Sri Lanka, the scene of recent clashes between Government forces and rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), to offer a lifeline to an estimated 200,000 civilians who have been displaced by the fighting.
The convoy, carrying 650 tons of food and accompanied by seven UN international staff, crossed the Omanthai border this morning on its way to civilians caught behind the lines of confrontation, according to a press release issued in Colombo by the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka.
“The convoy will transport and distribute food to four locations to the east of Kilinochchi, where the majority of displaced civilians are thought to have concentrated,” the statement noted, adding that the UN plans to dispatch another convoy next week.
After explosives and other illicit items were discovered earlier this week on Government-provided trucks due to join the convoy, the number of trucks was reduced from 60 to 51.
Today’s statement from the Coordinator reiterated that humanitarian convoys are protected from attacks under international humanitarian law, and condemned the attempt this week to disrupt the aid convoy by placing the explosives on the trucks.
Intensified clashes between the military and LTTE members in recent weeks have displaced tens of thousands of people and sparked warnings from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other UN officials about the humanitarian impact on civilians.