June 02, 2009

In the last several weeks, as tens of thousands emerged from the Vanni, the former conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have worked alongside Sri Lankan Ministry of Health staff to provide surgical and medical care to people injured in the fighting. The situation remains extremely serious inside the hospitals and for the 269,000 displaced people in Vavuniya District.

MSF opened a field hospital close to the the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps at Manik Farm, in the north of the district, on May 22. This is the closest referral hospital for the 226,000 displaced people living in Manik Farm. The temporary structure will provide 24-hour surgical and medical care during the current emergency phase. Surgical activities began on May 26, and the surgical team is carrying out between 6 and 10 procedures per day, mainly wound debridements—the removal of dead or foreign matter from a wound.

“Patients are mainly referred to our hospital by the Ministry of Health medical facilities in Manik Farm camp,” explained Severine Ramon, MSF coordinator for the field hospital. “We received more than 100 patients during the first week, mostly with wound infections, severe respiratory infections among children, and dehydration because of diarrhea. But the current restrictions on access to the camps is limiting and slowing our ability to respond to the medical needs of the internally displaced persons.”

MSF is also supporting the Ministry of Health’s surgical and medical activities in Vavuniya hospital, where the number of patients remains at least three times more than its 450-bed capacity. MSF has set up a dressing clinic close to the wards and the team is applying and changing approximately 60 dressings per day. One hundred care takers tend to the patients in the hospital, feeding and assisting them.

Dozens of people have been referred from Vavuniya hospital to the nearby Pampaimadu Ayurvedic Hospital to receive post-operative care, including physiotherapy. A small operating theater has been set up in the hospital for minor surgical procedures.