Caritas calls for an end to hostilities in Sri Lanka
04 February 2009
Caritas says that the conflict in Sri Lanka must end immediately to protect civilians caught in the crossfire and all sides must pursue a negotiated peace settlement.
The bishops of Jaffna say that 80 people have been killed and 230 injured in the government safety zones over a 48-hour period of conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tiger rebel group (LTTE).
Caritas Internationalis, the confederation of 162 national Catholic charities including Caritas Sri Lanka, says that aid agencies must also be allowed access to the affected population.
At least 250,000 people are trapped in a small pocket in Vanni, the scene of the latest fighting in the ongoing conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tiger rebel group (LTTE).
Over the weekend, a church sub office was destroyed in Vanni, a Caritas aid worker was injured and vehicles and vital infrastructure have been lost in the bombing which appears not to have been targeted at the office.
Caritas Sri Lanka Director Fr Damian Fernando said, “There needs to be an immediate end to the fighting by both government and rebel forces. Both sides in the conflict must seek a negotiated settlement.
“Aid agencies need to be able to reach innocent civilians who are suffering terribly due to the heavy fighting. We need to be able to reach them to provide medical and other humanitarian assistance.”
Caritas Internationalis Secretary-General Lesley-Anne Knight visited Sri Lanka in December. She said, “All sides of the conflict have the responsibility under international law to safeguard the lives of civilians. Currently, 250,000 people are trapped in the war zone and being directly affected by the fighting. Their protection is paramount.
“The international community must mobilize to put pressure on both sides for an end to hostilities otherwise we will be facing a humanitarian catastrophe.”
Caritas Internationalis launched an appeal last year for US$ 2,411,764.25 to provide 100,000 people affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka with access to shelter, relief supplies, education, livelihoods, water and sanitation, medical and social assistance, and counselling.
More than 5,000 people have been killed since early 2006 in the conflict, taking the death toll since the war erupted in 1983 to around 70,000.
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