UNHCR seeks US$18.6 million to help Sri Lankan displaced
GENEVA, February 28 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency launched an appeal Thursday for US$18.6 million to provide assistance to an estimated half-a-million internally displaced people in Sri Lanka.
As the lead agency for the displaced, UNHCR has been working with the Sri Lankan government since 1989 to provide protection and assistance to those uprooted by fighting.
"As the focus of the conflict shifts from Sri Lanka's east to parts of the northern region, UNHCR is preparing to assist fresh displacements during 2008," said a press statement released in Geneva on Tuesday.
"The US$18.6 million UNHCR needs - part of the Sri Lanka Common Humanitarian Action Plan - will go towards the protection of the displaced, returnees and other populations affected by the armed conflict. It will also be used to provide shelter, non-food relief items and camp management," the release added.
Last year, UNHCR appealed for US$22.5 million as its activities increased throughout 2007 following the large displacement and the subsequent return programme in the east. Following the military operations in the east of the island, some 170,000 displaced persons have returned to their villages of origin in the Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts, with more returns planned this year.
During 2007 alone, UNHCR distributed more than 500,000 non-food relief items and, as the lead agency for the protection of IDPs, continues to coordinate national and district level protection networks that comprise government authorities, other UN partners, NGOs and civil society groups.
UNHCR also heads the Shelter Coordination Cell, which coordinates the response to the current emergency, as well as planning and preparations for any future displacements.
There are still some 187,700 displaced since fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam escalated in April 2006. Following a 2002 ceasefire agreement between the rival sides and the return of tens of thousands of IDPs to their areas of origin, some 312,000 persons remained in a state of protracted displacement during the last 20 years of conflict. UNHCR is undertaking to work with the government to find lasting solutions for these people.