Sri Lankan friends bridge ethnic divide

Published: Mon 21 Sep 2009 10:08 AM
Sri Lankan friends bridge ethnic divide for children in need
Wellington, 21 September 2009. -- A group of young friends, made up of the two main ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, have put aside historic ethnic differences to organise a street appeal in Wellington to support UNICEF's work for children in Sri Lanka.
They expect up to 100 collectors to be on the streets of central Wellington on Thursday 24 September.
More than a quarter of a million people were displaced by the recent conflict in Sri Lanka between government forces and the Tamil Tigers. Most of the displaced people are living in government-run camps.
Women and children coming out of the conflict-affected areas endured extreme conditions, including scarcity of food, water and sanitation. Children have been traumatised and missed education for extended periods of time.
UNICEF is providing humanitarian assistance to children and families inside the camps in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene, along with nutrition and health, child protection, and education.
UNICEF Executive Director, Dennis McKinlay, says it is encouraging that the Wellington young people have been able to put aside Sri Lanka’s historic political and ethnic differences to focus on helping all children in need.
“We were really pleased to hear about this initiative which must be among the first of its kind in Wellington.
“We would urge people to open up their wallets and purses on 24 September and give as much as they can to help the children.”
Mr McKinlay says that children often suffer disproportionately in conflicts, whether through injury, disease, malnutrition, trauma or missing out on their education.
“UNICEF has been meeting basic needs in the camps, such as provision of water to some 180,000 children and families, construction of more than 2,000 latrines, vaccinations of 99 per cent of children under five against measles and polio, treatment of malnourished children, and supply of education materials for more than 60,000 children.
“Other essential tasks include working to reunite almost 1,800 children separated from the families; helping children who have been in armed groups return to normal childhoods; and educating children about the risk from mines and unexploded ordnance.
“UNICEF will also be working with the Sri Lankan Government in the process to resettle displaced people back to their original communities.”

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