Aid Agencies Still Without Access to Sri Lankan Refugee Camps

Even after a visit from the top U.N official, the Sri Lankan government has refused to budge on its disallowance of aid agencies to relief camps, in spite of repeated calls made by the agencies.

On Sunday, responding to U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's urgent plea for complete access to relief camps, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he would not yet lift restrictions until security formalities on refugees were complete.

Ban made the appeal during his Saturday visit to Manik Farm – one of the largest displacement camps in the world.

The over 200,000 Tamil civilians and the farm "need to resettled as soon as possible," Ban said.

"The U.N. and other international humanitarian agencies need immediate and unimpeded access to the camps," Ban urged.

Major aid agencies, including World Vision, on Thursday had sternly warned the Sri Lankan government of deteriorating conditions in displacement camps if the restrictions were not removed.

In a joint statement, the agencies also appealed to the authorities to lift recent restrictions on vehicular access to the camps.

"The camps in Sri Lanka are huge," World Vision and 12 other agencies said in the statement. "They stretch over 1,000 acres and take nearly an hour to walk across. Without vehicles we can't do our work properly and that's putting lives at risk."

"We're asking the Sri Lankan government to adhere to the guiding principles agreed by them with the humanitarian community and to let us do our job properly."

World Vision is relieved that the government has not blocked the Christian aid agency from entering the displacement camps.

Dion Schoorman, group director of Public Engagement for World Vision Sri Lanka, told Christian Today, "The government has not blocked our aid agency."

But there is a lack of funds to aid the people, he said.

The agency so far has helped people with water, food, and shelter, as well as nutrition, education and psychosocial programs, Schoorman said, as he called for more support from the international community.

Each day, World Vision distributes 12,000 liters of water, 57 metric tons of food, 3,000 tarpaulins and more than 8,5000 packs of cooked food, according to Schoorman.