Thursday, January 27, 2005

 

Child soldiers

This is an update from UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees, of which Angelina Jolie, one of my favorite people, is an ambassador).

Child Soldiers in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka

It has been almost a month since the devastating waves of the tsunami hit. UNHCR's shelter relief efforts are in full swing on the west coast of the Indonesian province of Aceh. Super Puma helicopters continue to fly in relief supplies on a daily basis. UNHCR is operational in three locations - Meulaboh, Calang and Lamno. Stocks have been helicoptered to Calang (4.5 metric tons), and Lamno (8.5 metric tons) for distribution in the coming days.

UNHCR will partner with CARE and Doctors Without Borders on distribution of relief items in small quantities in Meulaboh and around Banda Aceh. Many remote and isolated areas remain inaccessible for a host of reasons, such as washed out roads and bridges. Shelter remains a critical need.

In Sri Lanka the problem of child soldiering has re-emerged post-tsunami. Last week, UNHCR’s Erika Feller directly confronted the political chief of Sri Lanka’s leading rebel group, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), charging they have recruited children into their ranks since the great waves. The fierce and secretive organization generally referred to as the Tamil Tigers, is believed to have the largest suicide bomber cadre on earth. The group has enlisted 3,500 children into their ranks in the last two years alone, that during a cease fire. The latest transgression since the natural disaster included forty children, one a child of thirteen, taken by the rebels.

The Tamil Tigers political chief, S.P. Thamilselvan, denied UNHCR’s Feller’s claim and attributed the charge to "mis-reporting by journalists." But all combatants are on notice that UNHCR’s relief personnel will loudly decry any attempt to use the chaos of the tsunami to recruit children into deadly conflict.

The Tamil Tigers took three children from a relief center for survivors in the northeastern region of Trincomalee and another from the neighboring Batticaloa district. The other children were recruited from areas of the northeast held by the guerrillas – in all 40 confirmed cases of child recruitment since the tsunamis.

To help UNHCR rebuild the lives of tsunami survivors click here:http://news.usaforunhcr.org/cgi-bin2/DM/y/eN2D0E57650FWT0XTV0Eo

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