07 May 2009
Small Island, Big Humanitarian Crisis
“This is a humanitarian crisis of huge proportion. Over the last week, at least 20 people have died due to starvation and lack of medication. What’s making matters worse is that there are no morgue or transport facilities- dead bodies are just lying under trees. There’s also a lack of water, as Vavunia – a naturally water-scarce area – is facing growing shortages as a result of the surrounding jungle being cut down to house displaced people.” reports Amjad Mohamed-Saleem, Country Director for Muslim Aid Sri Lanka Field Office.
Since February 2008, fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LLTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers) and the Sri Lankan government has reached a climax leaving 200,000 people stranded in refugee camps as they attempt to flee the fighting. It is believed that some 50,000 people are still caught up in the war zone.
The 26-year old insurgency which has killed over 70,000 people and injured thousands more, has uprooted communities from their homes and forced them to take refuge in the more densely populated areas of Vavunia, Jaffna and Trincomalee, that are unable to cope with the huge influx of internally displaced people (IDPs).
In Vavunia, 53,000 people have arrived since Sunday May 03 2009; the overwhelming numbers of injured and malnourished are putting pressure on hospitals and medical facilities due to poor infrastructure and inadequate resources.
In the camps, thousands are without access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities increasing the threat of illness from waterborne diseases. Children, who make up about 30% of the displaced population, are especially at risk from chicken pox, ring worms and diarrhea due to dehydration and contaminated water supplies.
Muslim Aid has allocated £55,000 to provide emergency relief to the people of Sri Lanka. Since February this year, with the help of local partners, Muslim Aid Sri Lanka Field Office has provided 100 hospital beds to overcrowded hospitals as well as ambulances and basic medical supplies. The organisation has also provided an inflatable mobile field hospital in Vavunia refugee camp and is currently waiting for water purification equipment and water purification tablets to enter the region. Each water purification system can supply 144,000 litres of water per day and each tablet can purify up to a litre of water.
With the situation likely to deteriorate and thousands more people expected to arrive in refugee camps in the next month , Muslim Aid is also calling upon local partners and international NGOs to collaborate and share expertise to ensure that the work on the ground is as effective as possible.
“The situation is very desperate and the logistics of an operation like this can be very challenging. What is needed is for all agencies to work together to ensure that aid goes to the beneficiary as efficiently and effectively as possible. The need of the hour is partnership” said Amjad Saleem.
Notes for Editors:
• Amjad Saleem is the country director for Muslim Aid Sri Lanka. He was posted to Sri Lanka to work on reconstruction after the Indian Ocean tsunami and is now Country Director. He also oversees Muslim Aid’s Bangladesh operation and coordinates its international disaster response unit; Amjad was a key player in Muslim Aids work post cyclone Nargis in Myanmar. Amjad is available to talk on the current crisis in Sri Lanka and can be contacted on +94773138281 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Muslim Aid is a UK based relief and development agency established in 1985 and working in over 70 countries with field offices in Bangladesh, Bosnia, Cambodia, Gambia, Indonesia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan. We work with all in need, regardless of their race, religion, gender, nationality or political opinion and specialise in providing: emergency relief including food, shelter and medical support; capacity building through water, sanitation and health programmes; education and skills training; micro-financing and income generation in addition to providing specialist programmes such as orphan care. As well as supplying practical help, Muslim Aid assists communities in examining the causes of poverty and underdevelopment, and in advocating for a more just society and a sustainable future. Registered Charity No. 29522
• For more press information please contact Maryam Mohsin, Communications Officer, on 02073774200 or Maryam@muslimaid.org .