Sri Lanka UNICEF voices concern for children victimized by conflict

As the conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continues, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has voiced its grave concern for the South Asian island nation’s children who are increasingly being recruited by rebels and who are being killed or injured.The agency’s Representative in Sri Lanka, where ongoing fighting has trapped some 250,000 civilians in the country’s northern areas, said that the LTTE has stepped up its forced recruitment of civilians, with children as young as 14 years of age being targeted.“These children are facing immediate danger and lives are at great risk,” Philippe Duamelle said in a news release issued yesterday. “Their recruitment is intolerable.”UNICEF has recorded more than 6,000 cases of children being recruited by the Tamil Tigers between 2003 and the end of last year.These soldiers are physically abused, and “instead of hope, fear defines their childhood,” Mr. Duamelle cautioned.UNICEF said it is also very alarmed at the high number of children sustaining injuries – including burns, fractures, and shrapnel and bullet wounds – in fighting in the northern Vanni region, where many wounded children have been evacuated in the past week.The UN Country Team in Sri Lanka has called on Government forces and the LTTE to refrain from fighting in areas of civilian concentration, following reports that weekend clashes in a so-called safe zone in the northern Vanni region has led to more deaths and injuries.“The UN calls on both sides to find an orderly and humane solution so that civilians – and children in particular – can be spared further bloodshed and loss of life due to both disease and the fighting,” according to a statement issued yesterday in Colombo.In a related development, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes will travel to the country this week at the invitation of the Sri Lankan Government, it was announced today.During his three-day visit from 19 to 21 February, the top UN relief official will discuss the humanitarian situation with authorities, Member States, UN offices in Sri Lanka, the International Red Cross, and others.While in the country, Mr. Holmes will also meet with internally displaced people in the northern town of Vavuniya and its vicinity, and will speak to reporters at the end of his visit. 18 February 2009As the conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continues, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has voiced its grave concern for the South Asian island nation’s children who are increasingly being recruited by rebels and who are being killed or injured.

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