COLOMBO: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday expressed deep concern “over escalating violence in northern Sri Lanka and the humanitarian impact of the clashes on civilians” even as the UN and various NGOs announced they were withdrawing from LTTE-held areas following a directive from the government.
In a statement, Mr. Ban reminded the concerned parties of their responsibility to take active steps to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of civilians, allowing humanitarian organisations to do their work in safety, as well as to reach those affected by the fighting.
A statement issued by his office said as per the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), fighting between government forces and the LTTE has uprooted 12,000 families in July alone.
The withdrawal of UN staff from Wanni came after the government on Monday directed all international and domestic aid agencies to relocate to safer areas. In a letter to aid agencies, the Defence Secretary said: “No expatriate/employee or any other person employed by an NGO and working in Wanni will be permitted to travel beyond the Omanthai checkpoint, in consideration of prevailing security situation.”
“The UN is now evaluating its operations in the area with a view to relocating humanitarian staff. A precise timetable for the complete withdrawal of all staff is yet to be determined, but relocations will begin this week,” said the UN statement.