Sri Lanka Suffering "Unbearable"

Caritas Appeals on Behalf of Children

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, APRIL 21, 2009 ( In a situation that Caritas has dubbed «unbearable,» tens of thousands of Sri Lankan civilians — including many children — face death as they continue trapped between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels.

In a statement today, the international Caritas organization appealed for almost $2.5 million to provide emergency assistance to the victims.

The United Nations estimates more than 4,500 civilians have been killed in the past three months. The civilians are trapped in the last corner held by the rebel Tamil Tigers as 25 years of conflict to gain a separate Tamil nation has reached its bloody head.

The Sri Lankan government has the Tigers holed into just a few square miles, part of which has been designated a «safe zone» for the civilians. But both the government and the rebels accuse the other side of ignoring the civilians’ safety. The rebels asserted, for example, that more than 1,000 civilians died Monday in a government raid.

Caritas affirmed today that children suffer the most in Sri Lanka’s conflict in Vanni. Caritas Sri Lanka Director Father Damian Fernando said that the extent of human suffering there is unbearable.

«People face terrible suffering as they’re under daily attack,» he said. «Many children are caught in the war zone. Continuous shelling and displacement is taking its toll on the people who are constantly on the run. Access to medical help for the wounded is lacking. People have had little food or water for weeks.»

Despite the appeal for economic assistance, the charity organization said aid will not be enough without an end to the fighting or at the least a ceasefire to allow the evacuation of all civilians.

Father Fernando affirmed: «Both parties must ensure the suffering of the people stops. Caritas is calling on the government and the rebels to guarantee the protection of civilians. It is essential the bombing of safe zones is halted and that civilians are allowed to leave the combat zone. Only peaceful dialogue will ultimately find a solution to this conflict.

«The international community must wake up to the suffering we’re witnessing in Sri Lanka. We call on the U.N. to put Sri Lanka on top of its agenda and to use every means to press the warring parties to seek an end to the fighting through negotiation.»

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