Thousands seek refuge in Jaffna peninsula,
centres overcrowded

Although the focus is on internally displaced persons reaching government-run welfare centres in Vavuniya and Mannar districts, a sizeable group of people have sought refuge in the Jaffna peninsula by end of March.

Over 5,000 men, women and children have reached the peninsula over the past few months as the army gradually liberated areas held by the LTTE.

Almost 68,000 people have reached the government-held area leaving about 60,000 in the no firing zone held by the LTTE.

According to United Nations Office in Colombo engaged in humanitarian relief operations, almost 5,300 persons had been accommodated at seven locations including Kopay Teachers’ Training College. The UN said eight persons including two mentally ill had been allowed to live outside the centres.

According to the UN, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and ICRC had received government approval to monitor IDP centres. The UN said that in keeping with donors’ requirements, agencies which had been denied access to IDP centres wouldn’t be involved in what it called the emergency response.

The army said that of the total number accommodated at the seven IDP sites, over 3,000 had come in March. Jaffna based sources said that all centres were somewhat overcrowded and a large influx of civilians could cause severe problems.

Sources said that the newly set up IDP facility at the Palmyrah Research Centre could be expanded to accommodate about 1,500 persons depending on the requirement. The Danish De-Mining Group has carried out a mine clearing operation at the site where several unexploded ordnances were recently found.

The WFP has shipped 1,000 metric tons of wheat flour to the Jaffna peninsula between March 13-27 period.

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