Sri Lanka: Conditions 'rapidly deteriorate' in war zone

February 28, 2009

According to a February 25 AAP report by Ravi Nessman, conditions in Sri Lanka's overcrowded war zone have "rapidly deteriorated". The Sri Lankan government is attempting to crush the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), a group that has fought for self-determination for Tamils since 1976.

Nessman reported that "stranded families packed fields filled with human waste, water supplies dwindled and a makeshift hospital ran out of essential medicines".

The AAP article noted that "Aid groups estimate more than 200,000 people are trapped in a small strip of rebel-held territory along the northeast coast as the government wages an all-out offensive to destroy the Tamil Tiger rebels and end this country's 25-year-old civil war.

"The government, which says only 70,000 remain trapped, has brushed off growing international calls for a cease-fire to allow the civilians to flee the 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) that remain under rebel control, saying the war is nearly finished."

A February 27 World Health Organisation report, covering the period February 23 to March 1, noted that heavy fighting continued in the eastern coastal area of the Mullaithivu district. The report noted concern over crowding, water supplies, toilet facilities and stress in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

On February 28 the Tamil Eelam News Service reported that 60 civilians, including children, were killed during carpet bombing by the Sri Lankan air force in Mullaithivu.

Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres reported on February 28 that an estimated 200,000 people "living under desperate conditions are still trapped in the conflict zone in Sri Lanka's north. Patients tell MSF how people are being shelled for days on end, with the dead and wounded surrounding them. There is a severe lack of medical care and not enough food and drinking water."

In a statement issued on February 24, the World Health Organisation warned of outbreaks of malaria, dengue fever, measles and other communicable diseases if further measures to improve the health of IDPs are not taken.

"There is also the threat of gender-based violence and increased numbers of people suffering psychosocial and mental health illnesses", according to the WHO statement.

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