UN Calls for Unrestricted Sri Lanka Aid AccessWorld | May 23, 2009, Saturday // 16:50| views
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the Sri Lankan government to let aid agencies work freely in the country. Photo by elrst.com
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to press Sri Lanka to ensure unrestricted access by aid agencies to displaced people in the north of the country.
Ban said more than 300 000 people who had fled the fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces were in need of food, water and sanitation.
He is the first senior world figure to visit since the government said it had ended the 26-year insurgency this week, the BBC reported.
Ban said it was extremely important to initiate talks with minority groups.
On Saturday, the UN secretary-general saw at first-hand the main government-run camp for refugees at Manik Farm, near Vavuniya, where an estimated 220 000 displaced people are being held.
"I was humbled by what I saw," he told reporters afterwards. Humanitarian agencies complain that access to the refugees has been restricted and that the distribution of aid has been hampered by a ban on vehicles from the UN and other groups.
The government says it needs more time to find any Tamil Tiger members hiding in the camps, and is suspicious of some agencies which it has accused of helping the rebels. It plans to resettle most refugees with six months.
It is thought at least 80 000 people have been killed in the war. The UN says 7 000 civilians have died since January alone, although the government disputes this figure.
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