Conflict and consequences in Sri Lanka

Map Sri LankaDuration of the conflict
The conflict in Sri Lanka began in 1983. A cease-fire was proclaimed in 2002, but hostilities still continue at the present time.

Nature of the conflict
Ethnic conflict with both political and territorial dimensions. Initially, the territorial conflict concerned the legitimacy of ethno-political claims to the North-eastern region of the country. Political struggle about equal individual and group rights for Tamils and Sinhalese and the right to co-constitute the political system of the country.

Humanitarian aspects
Human Development Index 20071: 99 (2006: 93 ) 64,000 dead as a result of the civil war; more than one million other victims. 200,000 refugees, 460,000 others2 are internal refugees. The tsunami at the end of 2004 resulted in the deaths of more than 30,000 and the displacement of more than a million others.

Child soldiers
The latest statistics from Asian Development Bank showed that between February 2002 and April 2005, the rebel group LTTE (also known as the 'Tamil Tigers') recruited 1,572 child soldiers. 

Country's current phase
The Northern and Eastern regions of the country are still in a state of crisis. The fighting in these areas continues. In the South, reconstruction began following the 2004 tsunami and still continues today.


Many people in Sri Lanka suffer because of the civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, also known as the 'Tamil Tigers') and the government army and from the consequences of the 2004 tsunami. Children and adolescents form an especially vulnerable group. Particularly in the districts Batticaloa and Ampara, they are confronted daily with violence, loss of family members, destruction of houses and schools, and reduced access to health care and recreation. Their lives have been so fundamentally changed by the events that they have hardly had the opportunity to enjoy a 'normal' childhood. With the expiration of the 2002 ceasefire approaching (January 2008), surges in violence are anticipated. 

Children in armed groups
Recruitment of children by the Tamil Tigers is a regular occurrence. Rebel groups visit Tamil households to tell the parents they must supply a child for the 'movement'. Children are taken through use of violence if parents do not co-operate. Children are also regularly kidnapped when they walk to school or attend festivals in temples. In 2007, the Tamil Tigers were asked to release all child soldiers under the age of 18 by the end of 2007. However, the United Nations reports there are still children in the rebel group.

1 Human Development Index: This United Nations index is a classification of countries based on their level of development (in terms of poverty, illiteracy, education, and life expectancy). 2007
2 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre website.

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Rutie Atsmon director of War Child’s partner organisation Windows

Rutie Atsmon is director of War Child’s partner organisation Windows in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory: “Prejudice makes place for mutual understanding.”

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