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Essential items to civilians:

ICRC not cooperating

Essential Services Commissioner General S.B. Divaratne said yesterday the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not expressed willingness to send food items to civilians trapped in the No Fire Zone by sea.

The Government had been sending more than 3,000 MT of food items a month to the No Fire Zone before the mass exodus to the cleared area began.

Speaking at a press briefing in Colombo, Divaratne said he has chartered a special vessel to send food items to these civilians but the ICRC has shown reluctance to send these food items by the chartered vessel under the ICRC flag.

"I made an appeal to the ICRC to facilitate the dispatch of these food items to the No Fire Zone. A ship which can carry more than 1,000 MT of food items are kept ready at Trincomalee to dispatch food items to the NFZ. We are awaiting ICRC assistance," he said.

He said the ICRC should discuss with the LTTE and make arrangements to send these food items to the NFZ. Divaratne said essential commodities being despatched by 'Green Ocean' was not sufficient. "Green Ocean can carry only 30 MT of food and that is not enough. The ICRC should get more involved in this process," he said.

"I am not satisfied with the consignment of food being sent to civilians trapped in the NFZ. He said the government has effectively met civilians requirement living in the welfare camps though some shortcoming took place within the first two three days.

Two specialist doctors are stationed at the Vavuniya General Hospital to look into civilians' health needs. He stressed that not a single family is living under trees. "Each family was given shelter and we are in the process of erecting more tents in a land of 100 acres for civilians who are still trapped under the LTTE."

Divaratne said there is a shortage of latrines in centres and additional mobile toilets are being erected to overcome this.

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