Surge in violence displaces thousands in Sri Lanka's Mannar district
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, September 7 (UNHCR) - More than 3,000 people have fled their homes in north-west Sri Lanka's disputed Mannar district to escape fresh fighting between government troops and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) over the past week.
The Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, citing local government officials in Mannar, said 3,109 people had moved from southern parts of Mannar to Nanattan division in the north of the district. Slightly more than half were staying with friends or family. The rest - 435 families - are being accommodated in two schools and a damaged mosque.
The UN refugee agency and its partners have distributed food and non-food relief items to these internally displaced people (IDPs). Local government officials have handed out 2,000 rupees (US$18) in cash for each person and are planning to organize meals for the displaced over the next few days. Dry rations may follow.
Meanwhile, 2,915 individuals had registered with local government officials as IDPs in Mannar's Manthai West division as of Wednesday evening, according to field reports. A further 59 families had left their homes in LTTE-controlled areas of Mannar and arrived at Mulankavil in neighbouring Kilinochchi district. These groups feared fighting following the onset of government shelling.
Most are out in the open, using only plastic sheeting as cover. Some families are staying in communal areas, some are with host families and others are taking refuge in communal buildings such as schools.
There are concerns about water and food shortages. Limited assistance - both food and non-food-relief items - has been provided to families and more assistance is being planned. The poor condition of access roads to the settlement sites is posing a considerable challenge to relief efforts.
UNHCR, in coordination with other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and local government officials, will continue with relief and protection-monitoring efforts as the situation in Mannar develops.
Since the resumption of conflict in April 2006, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in the north and east of Sri Lanka. More than 100,000 people displaced in the east were able to go back home under a government return programme launched last May.
By Sulakshani Perera in Colombo, Sri Lanka