Information by Country
Sri Lanka: Newsline
Sri Lankan schoolgirls killed and injured amid escalating violence
UNICEF and the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) immediately sent their staff to the scene. “As our team was driving towards the compound, where the incident had happened, they encountered many ambulances and vehicles coming away from that direction carrying bodies of children and young people who had been killed and injured,” recounted UNICEF Representative in Sri Lanka JoAnna Van Gerpen.
“The compound was showing a lot of damage – one building was still burning. The SLMM team reported that about 10 to 12 and possibly even more bombs had been dropped in the area,” said Ms. Van Gerpen.
Aid workers targeted
The escalating conflict between the government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers, has forced more than 125,800 people out of their homes since April. A further 6,600 Sri Lankans have fled to Tamil Nadu in India since the beginning of the year.
Early in August, 50,000 people from Muttur town and its surrounding areas were displaced when fighting broke out in a dispute over water sources. Seventeen aid workers on a humanitarian mission for the aid agency Action Against Hunger were later found killed in Muttur.
The Tamil Tigers and the government have blamed each other for the latest upsurge in fighting, which has claimed more than 1,400 lives by official count since December. The killing of the schoolgirls is just the latest incident of human suffering caused by the rising violence.
“This is another tragic example of children getting caught in the middle of a conflict where the two parties have not taken adequate care to make sure that children are protected from this kind of violence,” said Ms. Van Gerpen. “Regardless of the circumstances, this is an extremely tragic event, and it’s just another sad example of what is happening in Sri Lanka these days.”
Adding her voice to the growing international calls for a ceasefire, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, urged the parties to end hostilities and return to the negotiating table.
“The latest shocking developments in Sri Lanka show once again that children continue to bear the brunt of this conflict,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy.
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and “ensure children and the places where they live, study and play are protected from harm.”