Vital UN food aid en route to displaced persons in northern Sri Lanka

WFP food convoy in Sri Lanka

2 April 2009 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today that 1,000 metric tons of critically-needed food assistance has been dispatched to a designated “safe zone” in north-eastern Sri Lanka, where more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting.

The items were sent aboard a ship chartered by the Government of Sri Lanka, sailing under the flag of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and was due to be unloaded later today.

WFP said the food aid would be sufficient to feed approximately 100,000 people for 20 days.

According to the UN, the area of fighting between Government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) shrank from 300 square kilometres to nearly 58 square kilometres in February, with many civilians – the world body believes between 150,000 and 190,000 – sheltering in a 14-square kilometre “no-fire” zone in the northern Vanni region.

Since road convoys to the Vanni region were discontinued in late January because of security concerns, WFP has dispatched nearly 2,220 metric tons of food aid using the sea route.

Overall, the agency is providing food to 1.2 million people in the South Asian nation through emergency feeding and recovery programmes.

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes last week characterized the situation in the north as “extremely worrying,” citing ongoing forced recruitment within the combat zone, and civilians not being allowed by the LTTE to leave the area.

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