Eight British aid agencies working in Sri Lanka today condemned the recent brutal killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur and warned that increasing violence in the north and east of the country is threatening their tsunami reconstruction and emergency response work.
CAFOD, CARE International, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Save the Children, Merlin and World Vision said the killings bring into stark relief the dangers for civilians caught in the upsurge of violence, as well as for those working on tsunami reconstruction and long-term recovery.
Renewed violence in the east of Sri Lanka between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has severely disrupted the lives of civilians, including people who were already affected by the tsunami. Thousands of people are fleeing their homes and have sought refuge in other parts of the country. This displacement has put even more pressure on aid agencies to provide relief in addition to their ongoing tsunami rehabilitation work.
"The current escalation in violence is having a profound impact on the ability of aid agencies to provide vital support to communities already affected by the tsunami as well as thousands of families whose lives are now being shattered" said Richard Mawer, Save the Children"s Country Programme Director in Sri Lanka.
Aid agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to operate in the north and east because of the violence and security tensions. There is limited access to areas in need and limitations on relief items allowed into particular areas.
For example, the medical aid charity, Merlin, is trying to rebuild a health centre in the eastern town of Vakarai but has been unable to access the site for the past two weeks because of a combination of fighting and movement restrictions.
"Over the past year, aid workers in Sri Lanka have had to cope with worsening violence, but this horrific incident represents an unprecedented escalation of risk," said James Marchant, Christian Aid"s South Asia Regional Manager.
British humanitarian agencies in Sri Lanka call for a full, impartial investigation into the killings of the aid workers in Muttur and call on all parties:
- to respect the neutrality of non-governmental organisations and guarantee them secured access to civilians in need
- to respect the rights of civilian populations and the basic principles laid down by the Geneva Convention
- to respect the ceasefire signed in 2002 and return to peace talks in order to bring an immediate end to the violenc
CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision all worked in Sri Lanka prior to the tsunami on long-term development work.
For further information or interviews contact:
UK Claire Kirk: 020 7327 5557
UK Sophie Kummer 020 7934 9347
Sri Lanka Sally Austin 00 94 (0) 773289823
UK Anjali Kwatra 020 7523 3460/ 07941371357
Sri Lanka Laurent Viot 00 94 (0) 773762799
UK Adeel Jafferi 0121 7130112
Sri Lanka Mohamed A. Moa 00 94 (0) 777535770
UK 01865 472498
Sri Lanka Ravi R. Prasad 00 94 (0) 773215594
Save the Children
Sri Lanka Phil Esmonde 00 94 (0) 11 2672668 ext 139
UK Jonathan Pearce 020 7014 1701
Sri Lanka Michelle Brown 00 94 (0) 773228306
Sri Lanka Taheeni Thammannagoda 00 94 (0) 773762470