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AI presses authorities over aid for Wanni

Rights group Amnesty International appealed Wednesday to Sri Lankan authorities to allow aid to reach more than 300,000 displaced people in the violence-hit northern Wanni region. “Our information indicates that the situation in Wanni is rapidly becoming critical, despite the government’s statements that it is coping,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific director.

“More than 300,000 people face the next few months crowded together in temporary shelters, surrounded by mud, with no promise of regular access to food or adequate sanitation.”
Sri Lankan authorities have restricted access to embattled areas for journalists and most aid workers, making claims by the two sides impossible to independently verify.

London-based Amnesty said the Indian government had promised food aid, but unless it was distributed by aid agencies, “there is no way of establishing if the aid is reaching those most in need.”

The situation risked deteriorating as the monsoon season approaches, Amnesty said, noting that only 2,100 temporary shelters for 4,000 families had been provided, leaving at least 20,000 families without shelter.

“The Sri Lankan government states that it is distributing aid to displaced families but Amnesty International believes the government lacks the capacity to… ensure the support is provided to protect” the displaced people, it said.

Zarifi added: “There is a huge gap between what the government is saying and how the situation seems to be developing on the ground.

“Without independent monitors or international agencies on the ground, there is no opportunity to conduct a meaningful needs assessment of displaced families,” he said.

“Our evidence strongly suggests that not enough is being done.”