Four Hundred Tons of Medical Aid Sets Sail for Sri Lanka
British celebrities, MPs and health professionals gather for launch and signing ceremony in central London, Tuesday 31 March, 2009
Act Now and a number of other charities are preparing to send 400 tons of food and medicine, to help the country’s internal refugees, on Tuesday 31 March, 2009. Supported by Sri Lankan singer MIA, plus other celebrities, MPs and MEPs, the mission will provide desperately needed medical supplies for thousands of sick and injured people, and raise awareness of the suffering of civilians trapped in the conflict zone.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, bombing and shelling by the Sri Lanka Armed Forces in the so called safe zone has killed 2,800 Tamil civilians and left 7,000 more injured since the beginning of 2009. Furthermore, the UN and aid agencies have been denied access to the region, leaving many without adequate food, water or medical assistance. Agencies fear that the cramped conditions and lack of sanitation will lead to outbreaks of malaria, dengue fever and measles.
Dr T. Varatharaja, a senior Sri Lankan health official in the region where the conflict is taking place, says that the last major medical facility in Tamil-held territory has almost stopped functioning due to a medicine shortage. Surgeons already have to perform operations including amputations without anaesthetics, but the closure of the hospital would put the lives of thousands of sick and injured people at risk.
The Act Now supported mission will deliver a wide range of medicines, from pain-killers, antibiotics and anaesthetic drugs and food supplies to the designated 'Safe-Zone' in northern Sri Lanka, where a quarter of a million people are trapped by the fighting. A professional medical team hopes to join the mission at some point. The supplies are being donated at various collection centres throughout London* and from other British cities, and the trip is being funded by the generosity of British supporters.
Graham Williamson, a director of Act Now, says: “The international community is turning a blind eye to the escalating crisis in Sri Lanka, a war not so different to Vietnam, as innocent Tamil civilians and their schools, temples, refugee camps and hospitals are bombed, in what many human rights groups are calling a form of ethnic cleansing.”
“Now, the Sri Lankan Government is withholding food, water and medicine as a weapon of war against the Tamils. The Act Now boat will bring life saving supplies into the region, but our work doesn’t stop there, we will continue to call attention to the situation in Sri Lanka until this war against its own civilians is stopped.”
The first leg of the journey is planned to leave the UK on Tuesday 31 March, 2009, bound for the 'safe-zone' in northern Sri Lanka.
The launch event will take place on Tuesday 31 March, 2009, from 1:00pm at The Royal Horse Guards, 1 Whitehall Place, 2 Whitehall Court, London SW1A 2EJ. To view, please visit http://www.theroyalhorseguards.co.uk/index.html).
A global appeal to the Sri Lankan Government to let the aid into the affected region and to call a ceasefire will be launched on the same day. A launch event has been organised to allow celebrities and politicians to sign a special letter (scroll) of appeal. This mission is supported by Grammy and Academy nominated singer M.I.A.
A celebrity committee will be held under the leadership of British models, Jade Parfitt and Jasmine Guinness.
Invited guests are, Claudia Schiffer, Pixie Geldof, Alexa Chung, Daisy Lowe, Nicholas Holts, Fearne Cotton (BBC presenter), Lilly Cole (Storm), Denise Van Outen (singer and presenter), Jodie Kidd (model), Lilly Allen (singer), Duffy (singer), Dawn Porter, Sian Evans (singer of Kosheen), Alex Parks and more. Some guests have already confirmed.
Members of the media wishing to take pictures/film of the event should contact Act Now ASAP.
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Notes for editors
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