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U.N. agency says access to refugees better

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, June 2 (UPI) -- Access to the thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil civilians displaced by the civil war is improving but remains limited, the U.N. refugee agency said.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva says about 300,000 people, forced out of their homes in the concluding days of the Sri Lankan military offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels, are now housed in 40 emergency shelter sites in the country's northern regions of Vavuniya, Jaffna and Trincomalee, the Voice of America reported.

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The refugee agency said more access is needed to provide emergency help to these people it said are living in dire conditions in cramped camps.

"Prior to fleeing, a large portion of the population already spent months living in squalid conditions with insufficient food, shelter, proper water and sanitation," agency spokesman Ron Redmond told VOA.

As a result, he said, many of them already had been suffering from malnourishment and related medical conditions.

He said agency is working with the Sri Lankan government and shelter agencies to identify additional land to reduce overcrowding in the present shelters.

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