World Vision Doubles Aid to Sri Lankans; Appeals for Donations

International Christian aid agency World Vision has called for more funds to meet the needs of 200,000 Tamil civilians, 60,000 of whom are child survivors, in Sri Lanka.

The alarming number of civilian casualties has forced World Vision to up its emergency aid response from $3 million to $6 million.

An additional $7 million is needed to help survivors return and rehabilitate them in their homes and villages.

Suresh Bartlett, national director of World Vision Lanka, says the global financial meltdown and swine flu were deviating the world's attention from the gross humanitarian crisis in the island nation.

"There are almost 200,000 survivors in the camps in the North who have survived a most brutal experience after being trapped in a conflict zone for weeks. At least 60,000 children are among them," said Bartlett, who was deeply troubled by the impact of war on children, following his recent visit.

"It is almost impossible to understand what these children have been through. Can you imagine what it must be like to see your friends, your brothers and sisters killed, to live in fear of the blasts and gunshots, to see your parents terrified and to go without meals and water for days on end?"

"Even before this latest turn of events many of these children have been displaced numerous times over the years. Some have never known what it is to have a proper home or to live in safety," he noted.

Fighting between the government and the LTTE has been ongoing since 1983. Sri Lanka officially ended the two-decade civil war in 2002, but violence has persisted between the two forces with a surge in violence in recent years.

The United Nations estimates around 50,000 civilians remain trapped in the conflict zone while more than 170,000 have escaped the area.

Children apparently have been the worst hit in the incessant fighting between the government and the Tamil rebels for which the U.N. Children's Agency (UNICEF) has also appealed for $5 million.

"I am extremely concerned that if we don't seize this opportunity to help the conflict survivors, especially the children, who are suffering from this long-running conflict, they will remain scarred not just by their memories but also by ongoing poverty," Bartlett said. "It is critical that we urgently commit funds to meet their needs. This will not only help to bring healing but also create an environment for peace and reconciliation."

World Vision in recent weeks has provided food packets to more than 25,000 internally displaced people and hospital care packs to 700 families. On a daily basis, World Vision is distributing nearly 100,000 liters of water across various camp locations.

"We are handing out food baskets with dried fish, salt, pulses (dried beans) and chillies to newly arriving families who have gone for days with virtually no food, traveling in the hot sun," Bartlett said.