Voicing “grave concern” over the recruitment of children by the LTTE in Sri Lanka’s war zone,the UN child agency has asked the conflicting parties in the country to find an “orderly and humane solution” so that civilians,particularly the young ones are spared bloodshed.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it has recorded more than 6,000 cases of children being recruited by LTTE between 2003 and end of last year.
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,adding that their recruitment is “intolerable.” These soldiers are physically abused,and “instead of hope,fear defines their childhood.”
UNICEF also expressed alarm at the high number of children sustaining injuries,including burns,fractures,and shrapnel and bullet wounds,in fighting in northern Wanni,where many wounded have been evacuated in the past week.
The UN called 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.”
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 Wanni region has led to more deaths and injuries.
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.
During his three-day visit from Feb 19 to 21,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,Holmes will also meet internally displaced people in the northern town of Vavuniya and its vicinity.