As the civil war rages on in Sri Lanka, Christian relief groups are doing their best to meet the huge and desperate needs of displaced war refugees in government camps.
The U.N. estimates about 250,000 people are in need of aid in the north, including more than 160,000 people who escaped from the conflict zone since safe passage was opened last month.
With local and international partners, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) is providing emergency meals and temporary shelters to 15,000 Sri Lankan civilians in camps located in the northwestern and central portions of the country, the group reported Friday.
The food program will provide new arrivals with two meals a day that meet their nutritional needs until they qualify for food staples from the World Food Program.
In addition to food, CRWRC partners are providing temporary shelter to displaced families who had been living with multiple families under one tent. With the aid project, one family will receive a 12' x 12' tent. The project is providing $30,000 worth in temporary shelters.
Also Lutheran World Relief and Gospel for Asia, with the help of local partners, have delivered aid to displaced Sri Lankans.
Earlier in May, Lutheran World Relief said its partners delivered food packages and clean water to people living in refugee camps. LWR staff reported that living conditions inside the camps are difficult and some children in the camps have been separated from their parents.
"The situation at the camps is distressing with cramped living spaces, short food supplies, and limited water," says K. Thampu (Nalee), LWR's acting country program manager for Sri Lanka. "However the most painful thing for most people is being separated from their families."
Some of the Tamil civilians escaping the conflict area are Christians, noted Barnabas Fund, a U.K.-based group that supports persecuted Christians. Although Christians make up less than 10 percent of Sri Lanka's overall population, they comprise 20 percent of the Tamil population.
Barnabas Fund is working with the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) to launch an appeal to pray and provide aid to these displaced Christians. The groups plan to send food parcels to the camps as well as school packs to help children resume their education in local schools.
Gospel for Asia-supported missionaries are also providing books for the makeshift schools operating in the camps, along with sandals and food. The ministry said many of the displaced civilians had worn out their own sandals while fleeing to the camps.
Sri Lanka for nearly 30 years has been caught up in a civil war between the rebel Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government. The Tamils Tigers claim the minority Tamils suffer from discrimination from the Sinhalese majority and say they are fighting to create a separate state for their people.
But in recent months, the Sri Lankan government has captured almost all of previously rebel-controlled areas in the north. On Saturday, the military said it has taken control of the island's entire coastline and has cut off the sea escape of Tamil Tiger leaders, essentially trapping them in a tiny area.
The Sri Lankan government is hopeful that with the latest military advance it can end the 26-year fighting on the island nation.