Food convoys to un-cleared areas to take new route

Food convoys to conflict areas in the North will be diverted via Mankulam from today (Wednesday) by-passing fierce fighting in the Killinochchi sector, Presidential Secretariat sources said yesterday.

Advisor to the President, Commissioner General of Essential Services S. B. Divaratne told The Island that donor countries wanted the Government to send the convoys of food to the Internally Displaced Persons in the Wanni accompanied by representatives of the UN Agencies.

Army top brass in the Vanni on Monday advised the government not to dispatch the food convoys as usual on the A-9 route due to the intensity of fighting but to take the alternate route via Mankulam, he said.

Acting on the advice of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who left for the 63rd AGM of the UN in New York, to ensure sufficient stocks of food for the IDPs in the Vanni, Divaratne flew to Vavuniya on Monday to discuss the matter with the Army top brass.

He was accompanied by the Resident Representative of the WFP Mohamed Salaheem, Resident Representative of the UNDP Neil Buhneand and Secretary to the Ministry of Nation Building W. K. K. Kumarasiri.

"I found that that there was no shortage of food as some reports said. There were 1,700 metric tons of essential food items such as rice, flour, pulses, vegetable oil etc. in the logistics hub managed by the WFP and the UN Agencies in Vavuniya. In addition, non-food items such as asbestos sheets and other items were stored in a huge warehouse likened to that of large Aircraft Hangar", Divaratne said.

He said that they were told that due to the intensity of the fighting in the Killinochchi area, which was subject to heavy shelling, most of the people had fled to the Kandavelli AGA area which is between Paranthan and Pudukudiiruppu in Mullaitivu. Thus, the food convoys could detour via Mankulam and Oddusuddan to reach Pudukudiruppu and Visvamadhu.

"If we don’t take precautions there is the possibility of the LTTE hijacking the convoys of food for their own use and that is why the Military top brass in the Vanni advised us to make sure that all food convoys are accompanied by two or three ICRC representatives," Divaratne said.

Following the meeting Divaratne had with the head of the ICRC last evening the obstacles were discussed and problems ironed out for a food convoy of 30 vehicles to leave Vavuniya today (Wednesday) accompanied by ICRC and UN Agency Representatives.

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