World Food Program asks access to fleeing refugees

GENEVA, March 20, 2007 (AFP) – Some 95,000 people have fled fierce fighting in Sri Lanka’s eastern Batticaloa district in the past week, the UN food relief agency said Tuesday. World Food Programme spokesman Simon Pluess said the fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels in the area had triggered a “dramatically increased number of displaced.”

The WFP said in a statement that the 95,000 had added to the burden of providing food for some 60,000 Sri Lankans who were already displaced in the area.

“WFP appeals today to the government and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to grant us unimpeded access,” Pluess told journalists.

The agency has received just one-third of its funding and existing UN stocks of food in Sri Lanka were expected to run dry by the end of April, he added.

Batticaloa has been the scene of major ground battles between the rebels and government forces in recent days.