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UN sends Vijay Nambiar to Sri Lanka

April 17, 2009 09:39 IST

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has sent his Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar, a veteran Indian diplomat, to Colombo to speak with the government there about the humanitarian situation in war zones of Sri Lanka's north and to express the world body's concern over the matter.

"(Vijay) Nambiar, I believe, is in Sri Lanka. The Secretary-General is doing his utmost to alleviate the situation and in that regard, there is a number of high-level contacts that we're pursuing," Associate Spokesperson to the Secretary General, Farhan Haq told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

However, Haq did not give details of who all the Special UN Envoy would be meeting during his stay in the island nation.

"One of the points we want to stress in this regard is that we continue to be concerned that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam did not appear to have responded constructively to the request to allow civilians to leave," he said.

"We found this to be truly disappointing. Our position remains that civilians must be allowed to leave the area of violence, and they must not be used as targets of political or military designs," he said in reply to a query.

Following the end of temporary ceasefire in northern Sri Lanka, Haq said fighting in the vicinity of the no-fire zone is reportedly intense and small arms fire, mortar fire and aerial attacks have resumed.

According to UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 64,000 people have crossed from conflict areas. Some 63,000 of them are accommodated in various camps, while 800 displaced persons are in hospitals in various districts.

The International Red Cross was able to evacuate just 988 people from the no-fire zone during the ceasefire period, Haq said. A ship with approximately 1,030 tons of humanitarian supplies is being loaded for departure to the no-fire zone and is expected to leave in three days.

In the camps in the Vanni region, shelter construction, site clearing, educational support, health care, water supply and sanitation assistance are continuing. But water and sanitation services remain inadequate, he said.

According to OCHA, the continued use of schools and other education establishments as sites for internally displaced persons continues to put a strain on the education services in the district, which is affecting both displaced students and host students.

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