UN Briefing on the Humanitarian situation (1 May 2009)

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United Nations, New York, 1 May 2009 – Daily Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General. Over Sri Lanka, security forces continue their operations in the northern conflict zone. Heavy fighting is reported.
The United Nations Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs says as of today, more than 172,000 people have crossed out of the conflict zone, mostly in the last 10 days. 170,000 are accommodated at temporary camps in 38 sites in four districts of the north and east of the country, while around 2,000 wounded and their caregivers are in hospitals.
There have been no new arrivals at the Omanthai screening point in the last 48 hours, and the Government of Sri Lanka informs us that none are in transit.
We believe that 50,000 people remain in the conflict zone.

Congestion in the camps remains one of the most serious concerns, as shelter in the camps remains inadequate. In Trincomalee, the UN refugee agency has started setting up tents, while UNICEF has been working on the provision of sanitation there, while also started building wells.
Despite repeated calls by the United Nations and the International Red Cross, they still have no access to the screening point at Kilinochchi.
The UN Refugee Agency also says a second team of UNHCR emergency experts is scheduled to arrive today in Sri Lanka. The team of four includes specialists on community services, protection and other essential field functions. This follows the earlier deployment of five UNHCR experts to Sri Lankas north in February and March.
While thousands of displaced people continue to arrive to Vavuniya, Jaffna and Trincomalee, others are returning to their homes in the first Government organized return operation in northern Sri Lanka in years. The area to where they are returning was for a long time the frontline in the fighting between Government forces and LTTE rebels.

UNHCR says it welcomes these returns as a positive development. While the number of those returning to their homes is still small it is an important starting point, it says. The United Nations hopes that returns to other areas in northern Sri Lanka will also be possible soon.

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