ICRC will distribute Indian aid

By Leon Berenger

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been called in to take charge of the Indian aid contribution to the displaced people in the Wanni as the UN sought a wider mandate in the area to ensure that the relief reaches the victims, officials said yesterday.

The ICRC has already sent an official to the Tamil Nadu capital of Chennai to inspect the Indian aid package to ascertain the quality and whether it conformed to the required standards, ICRC official Aleksandra Matijevic said.

Ms. Matijivec said she could not give a date for the arrival of the Indian aid consignment as talks were still being held with Sri Lankan and Indian officials. She could not be drawn into comment on whether India had bypassed the Sri Lankan Government in opting to send the goods through the ICRC. She would only say that all shipments to the Wanni would be carried out within the conformity and regulations of the local authorities.

Indian High Commission spokesperson Dinkar Astana confirmed some 1,700 tons of emergency aid consisting of 80,000 family packs would be channelled via the ICRC with the concurrence of the Sri Lankan Government.

Earlier Essential Services Commissioner P.K. Divaratne said India had made all arrangements to deliver the goods on a government-to-government basis and ruled out the involvement of the UN or other international relief agencies.“It was the Essential Services Department that would decide on the ways and means of distributing the Indian aid consignments to the Wanni IDPs,” Mr. Divaratne had said.
Human Rights Ministry Secretary Rajiva Wijesinha said the ICRC had been an excellent partner and “We see no problem if New Delhi has called on it to get involved in the aid programme.”

Meanwhile the UN’s Colombo chief Gordon Weiss said they had asked the Government to give their staff escorting food convoys more time to assess the ground situation since there was a risk of some of the aid falling into the wrong hands.

However World Food Programme’s Colombo head Asrat Asrahe was quick to point out that the aid entering the Wanni was reaching the people.

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