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New Reports: Disease and Death Staple of Life in Sri Lankan IDP Camps

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New Reports: Disease and Death Staple of Life in Sri Lankan IDP Camps

Posted by Rebecca Brocato on July 19, 2009

In his weekly “Worst Place in the World” post, Michael Kleinman at’s Humanitarian Relief blog bestows the unenviable award on Sri Lanka, where an estimated 1,400 people are dying each week at the Manik Farm IDP camp near the epicenter of fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tigers  this spring. The Times article reporting this shocking statistic also notes that ”the International Committee of the Red Cross revealed that it had been asked to scale down its operations by the Sri Lankan authorities, which insist that they have the situation under control.”

Kleinman makes the important point that while these deaths are mostly from disease (notably water-borne diseases such as diarrhea), “in terms of overall civilian casualties, more people are apparently dying each week in Sri Lanka than anywhere else in the world.  By far.“ These mortality statistics demonstrate the danger of government oppression and other tactics that may not amount to direct violence but are deadly nonetheless; the Sri Lankan government may not be gunning down 1,400 people every week, but it is certainly complicit in these deaths. 300,000 Displaced Tamils currently sit in camps throughout northern Sri Lanka, interned until the government is satisfied it has weeded out the Tamil Tiger fighters hiding among the civilians. This is after a brutal military campaign during which both the Tigers and the government engaged in a no holds barred fight without concern for the civilians caught in the crossfire.

Lydia Polgreen, reporting for The New York Times from an IDP camp near Cheddikulam, Sri Lanka, summarizes the situation well.

"Hundreds of thousands of Tamils remain locked in camps almost entirely off limits to journalists, human rights investigators and political leaders. The Sri Lankan government says that the people in the camps are a security risk because Tamil Tiger fighters are hiding among them.

But diplomats, analysts, aid workers and many Sri Lankans worry that the historic chance to finally bring to a close one of the world’s most enduring ethnic conflicts is slipping away, as the government curtails the rights of Tamil civilians in its efforts to stamp out the last remnants of the Tigers."