The United Nations is accusing the Sri Lankan government of starving its humanitarian agencies of much-needed fuel to operate vehicles and also generators which power freezers storing life-saving vaccines and other medicines. The continued power shortages, caused by lack of fuel, will soon affect the preservation of vaccines and essential medicines, the UN warned in a letter to Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa.
The UN, which is engaged in the humanitarian task of providing relief supplies to refugees caught in the crossfire in the north-east, says its operational activities are expected to come to a complete standstill unless there is urgent action. In the letter to Mr. Rajapaksa, the UN`s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Frederick Lyons says that since March `none of the UN offices in the Wanni has received their fuel allocation, despite the written approval received from the Commissioner General for Essential Services (CGES) for April, May and now June.`
`This unfortunate situation has compelled all UN agencies in the Wanni to reduce their operations dramatically, and cut the usage of generators and vehicles,` Mr. Lyons said in the letter to Rajapaksa.
The UN agencies operating in the north-east include the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
The letter also said that although some of the fuel allocations had been approved (with copies of letters of approval to the Chief of Defence Staff Joint Operations), the Ministry of Defence had failed to provide clearance for shipment and delivery through the checkpoint at Omanthai.
The letter, dated June 15, also points out that the WFP office in Kilinochchi `has now just enough fuel for four to five days under minimum operation procedures and has now started shutting down its generators at night.`
The letter also warns that UN offices will soon be deprived of basic power supply and communications. `This in turn will seriously affect staff security.`