The protracted armed conflict in Sri Lanka between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) appeared to be nearing an end in 2009 with the LTTE cornered in a small area of the northern Vanni region.
However, there remained almost half a million internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country. In 2008, the scene of conflict had shifted to the Vanni where an estimated 230,000 civilians were displaced by intense fighting. Most of the civilians in the Vanni were prevented from leaving by the LTTE which forced them to remain in the active conflict zone. Many civilians were displaced a number of times as the LTTE lost ground to government forces and they became squeezed in a rapidly shrinking conflict zone.
As of April 2009, the UN estimated that approximately 50,000 displaced people were trapped in the Vanni. Civilians were facing serious violations of international humanitarian law by both parties to the conflict and a severe humanitarian crisis with only the ICRC able to gain access to them through a sea route.
Source; Internal Displacement Monitoring Center