UNHCR reaches out to the displaced in eastern Sri Lanka's Kanthale area
KANTHALE, Sri Lanka, December 12 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is assisting several thousand people who have been displaced by renewed fighting between Sri Lankan government forces and the rebel Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam in the east of the country.
An estimated 3,842 people were sheltering Tuesday in Kanthale after they were forced to flee their homes in the Serunuwara, Somapura and Sooriyapura areas when fresh fighting flared early last Friday.
UNHCR is working with the government, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to provide assistance to the growing number of people arriving in Kanthale. This type of collaboration is imperative to ensure that the immediate needs of the displaced are met.
Some 800 sets of cooking utensils, 400 plastic sheets and 200 mats have been distributed along with pots, soap, towels, bedsheets and mosquito nets.
UNHCR was present at the Agrabodhi Temple in Kanthale when the first batch of displaced started arriving on Friday. "We anticipated that more people would be coming, so we got relief items ready for around 200 families," said Agron Dragaj, a UNHCR field worker in the area. "We are expecting even more people to make the 45-kilometre journey to Kanthale in the coming days."
Dragaj said those arriving here had clearly been through a lot. "You can sense the fear and despair among them. Their main concern now is whether or not it will be safe for them to return to their homes," Dragaj said.
This is the second time in the last four months that Kanthale has proved to be a haven for the displaced. In August, it was one of the areas that were overflowing with 50,000 civilians who had fled an upsurge in violence in the north-east.