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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
"Tamil refugees in camps in Army-controlled Vavuniya, who fled the fighting in the Vanni are suffering without sufficient food and adequate facilities. There are currently 22,450 refugees in six camps, including 9,170 in Poonthottam and 7,780 in Sithamparapuram. Many among the refugees have spent over four years in the camps.
The government provides Rs 35 for an adult per day and Rs 20 for a child. Although the money is given every 15 days, there was no payment in February and the refugees can afford only one frugal meal a day. Some families are accommodated in shelters outside the main camp. Refugees say the camps are cramped and the roofs leak during rains. The situation is becoming worse as more refugees arrive in Vavuniya from the LTTE-held Vanni.
The refugees complained to press reporters from Colombo in late February that the camps are managed more like prisons. Although the security forces claim that 12-hour passes are issued, camp residents say that they are allowed only four hours outside camps. Students were earlier given weekly permits to attend school, but now they are expected to obtain permits every day.
According to the US State Department Tamil militant groups such as PLOTE gain access to the camps by bribery and threats and complaints about their activities within camps continue. Poonthottam camp residents K Pushpanathan and S Ramakrishnan were wounded when they were attacked by police on 28 January.
Sanitary conditions are extremely poor in the camps which are referred to as welfare centres. Refugees say that in some camps cleaning of latrines are irregular and may be causing disease. When complaints are made about camp conditions they are being threatened with transfer to other areas. The refugees are expected to sign a document on arrival stating that they are entering camps at their free will.
The security forces have refused permission to many refugees to go to southern Sri Lanka or to settle in areas of their choice in Vavuniya. The district Army commander Tissa Jayawardena says that only Vavuniya residents are permitted to resettle in the district. Others, he says, can make applications. UNP MP Segu Isadeen told Parliament in late February that Tamils wishing to leave the north and travel to southern Sri Lanka must complete a 14-page application form answering over 200 questions..."
"...Malaria is continuing to cause concern in the Vanni, because of the difficulties in carrying out preventive measures. During 1997 and 1998, 53% of the 430,240 malaria patients in Sri Lanka were in Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Jaffna districts. But 80% of the 177 deaths due to malaria were in these districts. Government Anti-Malaria Campaign Director Dr Punsiri Fernando says many deaths in the Vanni were caused because of lack of facilities for proper medical treatment.
Hospitals in the Vanni have suffered for many years without adequate medicines due to government restrictions. In 1999, the Mallavi hospital in Mullaitivu District treated 158,300 people, including for malaria, septicaemia and diarrhoea. Hospital authorities say 142 people died in the hospital. Of the 299 children born in the hospital in 1999, 166 were underweight. Press reports quoting Norwegian agency Redd Barna say undernutrition among children in Sri Lanka was 37% but in the Vanni it was as high as 67%..." (British Refugee Council, Sri Lanka Monitor, February 2000)