18 November 2009 The United Nations humanitarian chief today continued his mission to Sri Lanka with visits to camps in Vavuniya and Mannar, where a large number of the civilians displaced by the recently-ended conflict between the Government and Tamil rebels are still living.
Currently, some 150,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) remain in camps, approximately half the population at its peak during the fighting earlier this year, before the Government declared an end to its military operations with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May.
Some 135,000 of them are in Vavuniya’s Menik Farm, which Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes visited today.
While there Mr. Holmes visited a clinic, a rehabilitation centre for handicapped people, including those with conflict-related injuries, a school, a supplementary feeding centre run by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and a vocational training and education programme for women.
The IDPs with whom Mr. Holmes spoke “confirmed their desire to return home, but wanted more information about the return process, including the time of their own return and details of the support they would have on arrival,” according to a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Local officials reiterated to the Under-Secretary-General the Government’s commitment to ensure the return of all IDPs in the camp by the end of January 2010, OCHA added.
In Mannar, he met with displaced people at transit sites and with patients in a district hospital.
On his return to the capital, Colombo, Mr. Holmes met the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs and other Government officials.
He is expected to conclude his three-day visit tomorrow with meetings with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, the Secretary of Defence, and other officials.
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