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UN to recommence food deliveries to Tiger-held areas

The displaced living in temporary shelters in the Vanni and surviving as best they can.

The first convoy of food supplies for civilians since 16 September will travel under the UN flag with UN international staff to areas held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north next week, Neil Buhne, the UN Resident Representative in Sri Lanka, told IRIN.

The World Food Programme (WFP) convoy will be the first since UN and other international agencies working in areas held by the Tigers in the north-central region, known as the Vanni, relocated to government-controlled areas following a state directive amid deteriorating security.

"The key for us is to get the distribution right, and to get food directly to those who need it most," Buhne told IRIN. "The success of the first convoy is important, because it will shape those that follow it."

There are between 200,000 and 230,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Vanni, according to UN statistics, and most are in areas north-east of Kilinochchi, the Tiger political headquarters, where the UN had also been based before the relocation.

New route

"The supplies will not be offloaded at warehouses, so the convoy will travel directly to where the IDPs are staying and distribute the supplies working with government agents in the districts," Buhne said. "We're still determining the precise route, but it will be to the east of Kilinochchi."

Heavy fighting between government forces and the Tigers has been reported near Kilinochchi in recent weeks.

UN officials will accompany the convoy and supervise the distribution. They are likely to remain in the Vanni until the distribution is completed.

The government directive on 5 September had advised all international humanitarian organisations including UN agencies to cease all work in areas under Tamil Tiger control by 29 September.

Up to 230,000 people are displaced in the Vanni area

Essential supplies

Government officials in Kilinochchi told IRIN that following the relocation of UN and other international agencies a series of discussions had been held to formalise the new distribution system.

"We held meetings with the WFP and other UN agencies in Vavuniya [south of Kilinochchi] this week and we have planned to send 60 lorries of essential items in one instant during next week," Nagalingam Vedanayagam, the Government Agent for Kilinochchi, told IRIN. "These goods will be for both Killinochchi and Mullaithivu districts [in the Vanni]."

He said that since the relocation no new supplies had reached the Vanni and more delays could lead to lowering of rations.
"At the moment the situation in the area is okay ... there was some fear because no supplies had come [into the Vanni] after the relocation," he told IRIN, "but after the new convoy arrives things will get better."

Buhne also said it was essential to continue with supplies transported by the UN into the Vanni.

"These supplies are a vital lifeline to tens of thousands of civilians forced by fighting from their homes. If they do not continue, their condition will deteriorate the longer the fighting and their displacement continues."


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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