UN calls for pause in Sri Lanka fighting to allow aid in

GENEVA, April 17, 2009 (AFP) – The United Nations on Friday renewed its call for a pause in fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and government troops in order to allow civilians trapped by the conflict to flee. “UNICEF is calling for a ceasefire and for a humanitarian pause which allows humanitarian workers to access the conflict zone and for civilians who are trapped in this zone … to be allowed to seek refuge in secured zones,” said Veronique Taveau, spokeswoman for the UN’s agency for children.

Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, also called on the Tamil Tigers to “immediately allow” civilians to move to safe areas.

“Those fleeing into government-controlled areas provide similar accounts of the dire humanitarian conditions prevalent inside the area.

“The situation has worsened due to the ongoing heavy rains and winds, with most families living in flooded areas under damaged tarpaulin tents and beneath trees,” he added.

Redmond said more than 63,000 people have fled since the fighting began, and that his agency was stepping up its emergency response to meet the needs of the displaced.