January 27, 2008

New restrictions on movement make providing aid difficult

In Sri Lanka, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are present at Point Pedro, in the Jaffna Peninsula, where the population is still isolated by the conflict. In spite of restrictions imposed by the governmental authorities, MSF pursues its activities in a region increasingly affected by war.

In Sri Lanka, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are present at Point Pedro, in the Jaffna Peninsula, where the population is still isolated by the conflict. In spite of restrictions imposed by the governmental authorities, MSF pursues its activities in a region increasingly affected by war.

The north of Sri Lanka remains a region of intense confrontation between the country’s armed forces and Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE). Recent months have been marked by an upsurge of violence between the two sides. The situation deteriorated further on January 2, 2008, when the government officially announced it was withdrawing from the ceasefire signed with the rebels in 2002.

The conflict isolates the Jaffna Peninsula from the remainder of the island, and living conditions for some 450,000 inhabitants are those of a militarized zone in conflict: shortage of products, goods and essential supplies; curfew; military convoys...

Medical and surgical activities

As the sole international nongovernmental organization present at Point Pedro, less than 20 kilometers from the front line, MSF has put in place medical and surgical services for the isolated populations of this region. The conflict isolates the Jaffna Peninsula from the remainder of the island, and living conditions for some 450,000 inhabitants are those of a militarized zone in conflict: shortage of products, goods and essential supplies; curfew; military convoys... Additionally, the peninsula’s inhabitants are at all times in danger of abduction, summary executions, disappearances, and armed attacks. In this context, the MSF teams at Point Pedro staff a hospital serving a population of 113,000. Surgical and medical activities, an emergency unit, and an obstetrics/gynecology unit have been set up. The presence of our specialist physicians means that vital care is available to the populations living in and around Point Pedro. The month of November 2007, for example, saw a total of 159 casualty admissions, of which only 17 percent were transferred to the reference hospital (Jaffna). In addition, 203 surgical acts were performed, 308 obstetrical/gynecological consultations were held, and 87 births took place.

The peninsula’s inhabitants are at all times in danger of abduction, summary executions, disappearances, and armed attacks. In this context, the MSF teams at Point Pedro staff a hospital serving a population of 113,000.

Restrictions Imposed in Militarized Zone

In the Jaffna Peninsula, the entire population is affected by restrictions, and freedom of movement is heavily constrained by numerous checkpoints manned by the armed forces. Nonetheless, MSF staff manage to refer patients from Point Pedro to Jaffna hospital, for those cases not able to be treated locally. Once military authorization has been obtained, our ambulances perform the transfer, even during military convoys or the curfew imposed on the rest of the population between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. However, for our international staff to reach the field, the whole process of obtaining visas and various official authorizations from different ministries can take up to eight weeks. These restrictions—imposed recently by the national authorities—greatly hinder our ability to provide specialists in time for the Point Pedro hospital.

Related News & Publications