The Department for International Development's (DFID) assessment of the humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka is that it is severe and in need of urgent relief action. As I reported to the House on 14 October 2008, Hansard, column 240-48WH, we estimate that the number of Sri Lankans displaced in the latest surge in the conflict between the Sri Lankan armed forces and separatist extremists has risen from approximately 75,000 in July to between 200,000 and 250,000. Because many of these people have suffered multiple previous displacements they are particularly vulnerable. They are trapped between opposing forces in a pocket of north-east Sri Lanka without the assistance they need, lacking food, water, shelter, health care or sanitation. It is impossible to gauge exact numbers or their full plight because there is as yet no proper humanitarian access to them. The United Nations and the Sri Lankan authorities are attempting relief convoys but so far relatively little is getting through.
As I said in the House on 14 October, we deplore this situation, have called on all parties to the conflict to facilitate access and humanitarian aid and I am pleased to have committed a further £2.5 million for humanitarian relief through the international agencies.