Military presence in Sri Lanka's north traumatic for children

Military presence in Sri Lanka's north traumatic for children

Military presence in Sri Lanka's north traumatic for children

Updated 20 June 2012, 0:09 AEST

Sri Lankan children are still traumatised by reminders of the country's civil war, rights groups say.

Children's advocates in Sri Lanka say the heavy military presence in the island's former conflict zones, especially in the north, continue to traumatise children who experienced the civil war.

Menaca Calyaneratne, director of advocacy for Save The Children in Sri Lanka told Asia Pacific's Sen Lam that the continued presence of the military in the region prevents children from getting over their trauma.

"I think there's still de-mining taking place," she said, "so there has to be involvement of the military as well."

"But for children who have lived in fear of war, seeing the presence of the military could affect them psychologically. On the one hand, that will have an impact on them, that the war is not over for them."

Sri Lanka's military defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels three years ago, and the UN children's agency UNICEF has described as 'remarkable' the progress made in child health and education.

The UN however, also pointed out the heavy military presence in the former war zones.

Ms Calyaneratne said that there are some very disturbing repercussions for the society dealing with the after effects of the conflict.

"I think not only in the north, but I think something very alarming in the whole of this country, in a post-war situation is the violence against children, particularly child abuse, is on the rise," she said.

"Last year alone, 20-thousand reports of child abuse were reported to the government, to the children's hotline. On an average, three children get abused daily in Sri Lanka."

In addition to reports on sexual abuse there are many abductions of children for ransom, which involve kidnapping and even murder, Ms Calyaneratne said.

Three rehabilitation centres have been operating since 2008, to provide education, psychological support for former rebel child soldiers, and to reunite them with their families. Ms Calyaneratne says facilities like these are vital to help Sri Lanka's children heal.

"For them to have a sense of real peace, whenever we have asked them," she said, "they've said that they need to have education and facilities for education, just like the kind of facilities that children have in the south of the country."

"So, greater focus is required for children in the north, to be resettled in their own villages and to receive an education, which will make sure that they have not lost everything, and they have an equal chance in life towards their future," she said.