Children trapped in Sri Lanka’s conflict
Sennappu had a split second, a moment. Literally a heartbeat to throw her body around her 18month-old daughter before the bomb landed. Her reactions were enough time to save the life of her baby girl. Sennappu was killed instantly.
As Sri Lanka’s conflict has grown in intensity, so too have the number of civilians injured and killed. UNICEF has consistently called upon the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (the rebel group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to give absolute priority to the protection of civilians. And yet mothers like Sennappu continue to die. As do children.
“Hundreds of children have been injured in the fighting and evacuated in the past week,” said Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF’s Representative in Sri Lanka. “Children are victims of this conflict by being killed, injured, recruited, displaced, separated and denied their every day needs due to the fighting. Instead of hope, fear defines their childhood.”
Many of these children who UNICEF is now supporting have been displaced multiple times in the past 12 months, as they fled the fighting. Mrs Paskaran’s family was forced to abandon their homes and shelters nine times since January last year. “The fighting got closer and closer, and more and more people were dying,” she tells me. “My children saw their friends killed, they spent days and nights in bunkers, they were petrified. But we are out of there now.”
They are, though today tens of thousands of civilians remain in the Vanni, including a large number of children. They are being caught in the crossfire, experiencing serious shortages of food, medicine, and clean water. Many children have not been to school in almost a year. As a part of the Consolidated Humanitarian Appeal (CHAP), UNICEF is appealing for US$15million for a broad range of emergency support in water and sanitation, nutrition, education and protection.