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Sri Lanka

Volume 523: debated on Wednesday 16 February 2011

7. What recent assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. (40977)

The number of internally displaced people in camps in Sri Lanka has declined from 300,000 in 2009 to 18,000 today. DFID has provided £13.5 million in humanitarian assistance since 2008, but our bilateral aid to Sri Lanka will cease in March, except for a new demining programme valued at £3 million.

Among those affected by the floods are many people who were earlier displaced by the conflict and who had recently returned to their homes only to be displaced again. Even before the floods, these people had been struggling to access much-needed protection and assistance because of Government restrictions on humanitarian organisations’ access to the return areas. What pressure is the Minister putting on the Government to allow humanitarian organisations to have access to the former conflict areas, so that the suffering people there can be given the full help they desperately need?

We will continue to press the Sri Lankan Government to grant access to such areas for humanitarian purposes. More than 1 million people have been affected by the flooding. We looked very closely into the sort of support we should give, but the most immediate needs are covered by Sri Lankan authorities and other donors, so we are working principally through multilateral organisations to give the help that is needed.

The United Nations estimates that some 90% of Sri Lanka’s rice crop will be destroyed by the recent flooding. That makes the Government’s decision to stop all aid with effect from March quite worrying, because on top of all the troubles in that unfortunate country there is a very real risk of food security problems or starvation in the years to come. What is the Department prepared to do about that?

I urge my hon. Friend to appreciate the distinction between a continuing bilateral programme and humanitarian aid, which can be given as needs must. We will continue to review the humanitarian needs of Sri Lanka and work through multilateral organisations as required.