Caritas helps war victims in Sri Lanka
27 April 2009
Caritas says that civilians are paying too high a cost for the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka and is calling for both sides to accept a ceasefire.
Hundreds of thousands of people in dire need are leaving rebel held territory in Vanni in the north of Sri Lanka.
Hundreds of thousands of people in dire need are leaving rebel held territory in Vanni in the north of the country after months of intense combat between government forces and Tamil Tiger (LTTE) rebels and are now in government run camps.
Caritas is providing cooked meals to new arrivals, medical support, counselling for trauma, and will be working on providing schooling for children.
Last week, two priests were badly injured in shelling. They had remained behind in the conflict zone despite having the chance to leave.
Caritas is calling for all sides to respect international humanitarian law with regard to the protection civilians and to allow aid agencies access to provide humanitarian assistance. Caritas Sri Lanka’s National Director Fr Damian Fernando says that Caritas will continue to help the needy people and also negotiate with the government to find a lasting solution for peace in the country.
Fr Fernando said, “Sri Lanka is undergoing the worst scenario. Innocent civilians are paying a huge cost and are the worst hit. Already there are more than 130,000 who have crossed over to the [Vavuniya] government controlled side. These people are coming out in highly traumatised conditions. Most of them are tired and worn out after months of suffering. Many of them are injured and some of them are very severely wounded. The hospitals have totally exceeded their capacity to receive the wounded.
“The biggest challenge is to respond to the needs of these people who are now coming out in large numbers and in a few days will be amassed into the camps which are already overcrowded. The military forces in charge of the camps are totally preoccupied with security and fears of LTTE infiltration.
“The government has asked that the religious people be mobilised both from the north and south to bring help to the people. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka has mandated Caritas Sri Lanka to respond. Caritas, as a Church institution, is able to work in the camps and send religious nuns and priests to help the people. Caritas is responding as it’s the only opportunity for the Church to witness its compassion to the suffering people.
“There is a dire need for food and other aid items and Caritas has to get them to the people. Caritas through its Mannar Valvuthyam and Jaffna offices are trying to give the affected people all possible support. Caritas will support the needs of the people as and when they arrive and as long as the needs are not catered to by others.”
Contact Patrick Nicholson on 0039 334 359 0700 or firstname.lastname@example.org