Red Cross: refugee status in Sri Lanka "very critical"

Red Cross: refugee status in Sri Lanka "very critical"Colombo - More than 200,000 refugees are facing "very critical" circumstances in northern Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the recent war, representatives of the German Red Cross told the German Press Agency dpa.

Andreas Lindner, head of the German Red Cross team in the region, said the situation facing Sri Lankan refugees presently was "one of the most complicated and dramatic" worldwide.

"This is the kind of thing I saw after the genocide in Rwanda," he said.

Camps have counted at least 9,000 cases of hepatitis A and 2,600 cases of chicken pox. There are also individualized cases of typhus.

"This could very quickly develop into an epidemic," warned Lindner, who visited a refugee camp near Vavuniya.

Supplies are also limited at the camps, with refugees receiving about two to three liters of water, instead of the recommended 15 to 20 liters. Hygenic facilities are also limited for the 220,000 to 230,000 refugees in the camps.

Lindner noted that the number of refugees could climb to 250,000 to 300,000 once a count of all camps in the region is completed.

"The situation for some of the most recently arrived refugees is fairly critical. Some of them spent more than a year on the run," he added, noting that many of the refugees were trapped in rebel-held regions that had shrunk to only a few square kilometres in the waning days of the fighting.

Many of the refugees suffer from dehydration and malnutrition. Many also suffer gunshot wounds or other injuries. (dpa)