Paris, April 28, 2009
Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband are going to Sri Lanka today. On their arrival, tomorrow, they will have a meeting with their Sri Lankan opposite number and later with the Sri Lankan President.
After this first meeting, tomorrow the two ministers will also go to Vavuniya in order, inter alia, to visit the field hospital which France has deployed there, as well as stepping up her assistance to the humanitarian organizations, doubling her contribution to the UNHCR and increasing aid to the French NGOs. Our field hospital, which has been operational since this morning, has begun to take in the first patients. It has around 30 beds and can carry out between 10 and 20 surgical operations a day.
The Minister’s plane will bring 36 field medical chests containing medicines and consumables to come to the assistance of 18,000 people, both in our field hospital and other facilities.
The French field hospital is located in Cheddikkulam, 20 kilometres south of Vavuniya. It will support Vavuniya’s second district hospital and relieve the congested Dutch MSF field hospital in Vavuniya.
If you include all the measures we have taken, France’s humanitarian response to date stands at €1.2 million. So far 78 Foreign and European Affairs Ministry personnel have been sent to the area.
But the humanitarian situation of the internally displaced people is still very alarming. The international community is worried about the fate of the civilians caught up in the fighting. OCHA estimates that there are 40,000 of them. The Sri Lankan authorities’ announcement, on Monday, 27 April 2009, of the ending of the use of heavy and aerial weapons has not been followed by authorization for access to the area of fighting and the “grey area”, between the combat zone and Vavuniya.
We deplore the fact that civilians and NGOs cannot move around freely and the consequent hindering of access to humanitarian aid and care.
Since 1 January, 200,000 people have been displaced, including over 113,000 since the beginning of last week. 30,000 to 40,000 people are reportedly still without water, food and access to care in the “grey area”.
The saturation of these camps and new arrivals’ state of health and destitution gravely concern the NGOs and United Nations. The UN estimates that since 1 January 2009, 6,500 civilians have been killed and 14,000 injured./.