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Sri Lanka: Politics and Government

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 22 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of the humanitarian situation in the Vanni area of Sri Lanka following (a) the government of Sri Lanka’s order to UN agencies and humanitarian non-governmental organisations to withdraw their staff and operations from the region on 5 September 2008 and (b) the flooding from Cyclone Nisha in November 2008. (246290)

The Department for International Development’s (DFID) latest field assessment visit in September reinforced our considerable concern about the 230,000 or more displaced people and vulnerable residents in the Vanni and the lack of humanitarian assistance. Without regular direct access the detail of conditions in the Vanni is difficult to monitor. However, we remain in close contact with humanitarian agencies and plan another humanitarian mission in mid-February.

We have continually pressed for all parties to the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law and for humanitarian convoys to be allowed to deliver assistance more predictably. A full UN-led needs assessment is essential, especially after Cyclone Nisha.

DFID has allocated £2.5 million to the UN, the International Red Cross and the International Organisation for Migration to help support the immediate needs of displaced and vulnerable residents in the Vanni and elsewhere in Sri Lanka. The problem, however, will not be resolved by funding alone and we are resolute in pressing for better humanitarian access and safe humanitarian space. I and other Ministers have pressed the Sri Lankan Government to allow this.