Aid Groups Call Attention to Worsening Humanitarian Situation in Sri Lanka

An aid group drew attention to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka due to armed conflict between government troops and the

.

described the condition of civilians trapped in a sliver of land in the northern part of the country as "becoming graver by the day."

Reuters reported that in the last 10 days about 1,000 people

daily. The United Nations said the

from 300 square kilometers to 58 in February, leaving civilians stranded in temporary shelters in a new 14-square-kilometer no fire zone.

The U.N. estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 civilians have been internally displaced by the fighting. Nearly 45,000 people have escaped the conflict zone since January, it added. Reuters said in the second exodus over the last 10 days, an estimated 10,500 people have fled the area.

Displaced civilians have escaped to makeshift camps in Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna. However, the U.N. remains worried about their plight of having limited access to food, safe water, sanitation facilities and medical assistance.

said many civilians needing medical attention are women and children. The group added that nearly half of the civilian population trying to escape the fighting have been injured.

remarked that the stream of injured civilians fleeing for their lives seems endless. It said it was not uncommon to see children who have lost a limb or their parents in the shelling.

"I have seen every single one of my staff members in tears in the last week, myself included," said Ian McInnes, the group's country director for Sri Lanka.

Aside from the obvious danger posed by staying in the conflict area, civilians, including children, are reportedly being forced to fight for the Tamil Tigers while those who try to run away are supposedly shot.

Christian Aid said the world cannot afford to remain indifferent about the crisis in Sri Lanka. It also indicated that both the government and rebels are culpable.

"Current government plans do not guarantee their protection and assistance … Both the Government of Sri Lanka and LTTE must now fulfill their duty to protect civilians and permit unfettered and immediate humanitarian access for aid workers. And it must be done now," stressed Robin Greenwood, who leads Christian Aid's Asia and Middle East division.

The death toll has reached 2,800 while some 7,000 have been injured, according to

.

Foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama expressed

over the inclusion of unsubstantiated information in a U.N. report. In its Web site, the government quoted Sir John Holmes, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and U.N. emergency relief coordinator, as saying: "The reason we have not come out with this as our figure is because, as I have said before, we cannot verify it in a way that you want to be able to verify, if you put it as your public figure."

No one may know for certain exactly how many people have been injured and killed since the civil conflict escalated. But can it be denied that people are continuing to get hurt and die, regardless of how many they are? Aid groups have

over and over, suggesting that the damage to the population is unmistakable.

About the author

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    Josefa Cagoco

    Sef Cagoco served as one of Devex's international development correspondent from mid-2008 to mid-2009. Her writing focused on social entrepreneurship and multilateral agencies such as the U.N. and Asian Development Bank. She previously worked as senior reporter for the national daily BusinessWorld and a production journalist for the Financial Times.