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Newly displaced, rising food costs prompt UN, NGO plea for more aid

Children dependent on food aid are feeling the effects of food assistance cutbacks.
(Amantha Perera/IRIN)

The rising cost of food and the urgent humanitarian needs of newly displaced people in Sri Lanka's war-torn districts have forced the UN and other aid organisations to appeal for increased donor funding.

The UN's resident representative in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, told IRIN the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), an umbrella grouping of UN agencies and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is asking for US$190 million - up from about US$145 million sought at the beginning of 2008 - mainly for emergency relief, protection and early recovery projects.

"A mid-year review of the CHAP [Common Humanitarian Action Plan] for 2008 showed that we needed more funding than we had first thought," Buhne told IRIN. "This is partly because of increased food costs, which is the largest single cost component, and the new humanitarian needs in the country, particularly in the north."

He said the new figure would have been higher if some low priority projects had not been cut out of the original CHAP list.

Fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northern districts of Mannar, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu has intensified in recent months, leaving thousands displaced in welfare camps.

Security forces are trying to re-take territory from the Tamil Tigers which wants to set up an independent state for ethnic Tamils in the island's north and east. After long-drawn out battles to rid the eastern province of the LTTE, the resettlement of displaced communities is now under way.

Photo: Amantha Perera/IRIN
An internally displaced family in Batticaloa District shares a meal

Over 190,000 displaced

The IASC noted in its weekly review of humanitarian activities in the north and east

that a little over 52,000 families comprising some 193,000 persons have been displaced in the four northern districts. Kilinochchi, where the LTTE has its headquarters, accounts for some 35,353 families. They include people displaced since April 2006 when the violence escalated.

Since the beginning of the year, food prices have spiralled with the staple, rice, hitting an all-time high of Rs. 100 [93 US cents] a kilogram in March 2008 on the back of rising world prices. Inflation is currently running at 26.6 percent compared to 15.4 percent in July last year.

So far donors have committed to meet the costs of about 40 percent of the original CHAP request, Buhne said, and the worry was whether funding would be forthcoming for the new emergencies.

"We are concerned that if the projects are not funded adequately the objectives set out in the CHAP would not be met," Buhne told IRIN, adding that the priorities were to meet urgent humanitarian needs, to assist in the return and resettlement of displaced communities, and to facilitate the recovery of people affected by the conflict. "What is important is that, with increasing needs here in Sri Lanka, we get funds in the next months."

He said the 60 percent shortfall in the original CHAP appeal was the result of other pressing global humanitarian crises, such as the natural disasters in Myanmar and China, and the situation in Darfur, in the past few months.

"Because there have been a number of other humanitarian crises this year, many potential donors to our CHAP have limited additional funds for Sri Lanka. During the first part of the year the humanitarian needs in Sri Lanka may have seemed less pressing to some donors," Buhne said.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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