Red Cross Urges Safe Passage for Wounded Civilians in Sri Lanka
The International Committee of the Red Cross urged the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lanka's government to ensure safe passage for at least 400 injured civilians trapped inside a makeshift hospital in a rebel-held region of the nation, Bloomberg reported.
The patients were shifted to Puttumatalan village from Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital on Feb. 3 and are housed in schools and community centers lacking basic facilities such as sanitation and drinking water, Sophie Romanens, a Red Cross spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Colombo.
"Five people have died and already these patients needed urgent medical treatment which was not available in the earlier medical center," Romanens said. Three "medical structures" in the northeastern Mullaitivu district have closed down as they were fired on directly, which is unacceptable under international humanitarian law, she said.
The army has forced the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who demand a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil ethnic minority, from their main bases this year. Rebel fighters are now operating in an area of less than 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) in the northeast, according to the military.
People have been forced from their homes and have lost their livelihoods as the fighting escalated, while flooding has led to crop failures, the World Food Programme said on Feb. 6.
At least 250,000 people in the north of the country are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian food aid for survival, the United Nation's hunger relief agency said.