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UNICEF seeks full access to refugee camps

May 20, 2009 at 1:59 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, May 20 (UPI) -- The United Nations, demanding full access to Sri Lankan refugee camps, says the number of displaced persons in these shelters may reach 250,000 this week.

As the Sri Lanka government lauded its military's victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels and deaths of their leaders, Ann Veneman, executive director of the U.N. Children's s Fund, highlighted the plight of the civilians caught in the aftermath.

In a statement, she said there have been reports that access to some of the refugee camps had become restricted.

"Full and unimpeded humanitarian access must be ensured so that children and women can receive the assistance they so desperately need," she said.

The statement said the displaced persons were arriving at the camps "sick, malnourished and some with untended wounds of war."

By the end of this week, "the number of internally displaced people in camps is expected to have grown to more than a quarter of a million people since late April."

Veneman said such a massive influx of people "will put an even greater strain on the health, sanitation, and water systems in internally displaced persons camps."

The statement said water and sanitation needs are critical.

In declaring the military's victory over the LTTE rebels ending the 26-year-old civil war, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told his nation the country was celebrating "the defeat of terrorism."

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Topics: Ann Veneman
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