Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to the president of Sri Lanka by telephone yesterday about the worsening humanitarian crisis in the northern area of the country where some 250,000 civilians are trapped by fighting between Government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
In his conversation with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Mr. Ban also conveyed his strong concern about the heavy casualties being inflicted on civilians, including children.
“The Secretary-General reiterates the responsibility of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to allow people to move to wherever they feel safe and the obligation of the Government to conduct its military operations with due regard to the need to safeguard civilian lives,” his spokesperson Michele Montas said.
The UN Children Fund (UNICEF) said today that children had been utterly traumatized during the conflict, as families hid in underground shelters with very few resources.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the entire population of the Vanni region where fighting is taking place is facing a food crisis due to displacement of the population as well as crop failure and recent floods.
Livelihoods have been almost completely lost, coping mechanisms have been exhausted and people are dependent on humanitarian food aid for survival, WFP reports.
The agency said that it has sent 11 convoys into the region since September 2008, to keep some 230,000 people alive.
The last UN convoy was sent in on 16 January, carrying only enough food for about one week, and WFP has not, to date, been able to get clearance to send in others despite promises from authorities.