Churches Worldwide Rush Aid to Troubled Sri Lanka

Since Sri Lanka's 2002 cease-fire between the army and the Tamil Tigers, roadside blasts, suicide bombings, land and sea battles have killed thousands of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese in the north and east as well as combatants and military personnel.

The new chapter of the two-decade conflict bodes ill as calls from the international community to cease fighting are ignored, says Action by Churches (ACT) International.

In 2006 the death toll as a result of conflict was over 3,000 people. Now, it is feared that the bloodshed will only get worse.

The limited food supply in the conflict affected areas has caused many problems for the internally displaced, as well as for the rest of the communities living in those areas. Medicines are also scarce and the prices of the few available items have escalated beyond the reach of most people. Abductions are reported daily.

More than 200,000 are internally displaced. With no regular supply routes by land, prices of essential items in Jaffna have gone sky-high, says ACT. The soaring prices coupled with no proper means of livelihood makes the life of some 500,000 people in Jaffna Peninsular a "veritable nightmare", the global alliance of churches and church-related agencies said. Fishermen are banned, without warning, from going out to sea. The ban can remain in force for weeks, lifted for a short period and then re-imposed.

The 80,000 or more internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Eastern Province also suffer in the same manner. The land routes are open and food trickles in. However, there is a massive shortage of food as all the crops have been destroyed and many people have lost their means of livelihood. There is a dire lack of clean water and sanitation facilities and medical assistance is urgently needed.

"Many of the IDPs in the north and east have been impacted by one calamity after another - war, floods, tsunami and again war - without having the chance to fully recover," said ACT.

ACT member the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL), its constituent members and partners, have been carrying out emergency relief distributions to assist the most vulnerable communities using its own resources or borrowed funds.

ACT is expecting to receive and issue a proposal from NCCSL within the next week. It has planned to provide emergency relief for a period of three months to assist Tsunami/conflict affected people and communities in the north and east of the country who have had to flee the fighting and are homeless. They are currently living with host families or in camps and welfare centres set up by the churches or Divisional Secretaries of the region. The programme plans for food and non-food items, water and sanitation, medicines and some livelihood support to a value of just under $600,000.

ACTwould be grateful for indications of possible funding from donors.

Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jessie Kgoroeadira, ACT Finance Officer (jkg@act-intl.org).

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