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Sri Lanka: MSF Scales Up Assistance to Displaced and Wounded
February 20, 2009
Sri Lanka 2009 © Voitek Asztabski/MSF
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is preparing to scale up its assistance to displaced people in camps in and around the city of Vavuniya, in Northern Province, Sri Lanka. MSF is already distributing food and basic relief items in 10 camps and plans to work in five more. The camps are home to about 30,000 people who have fled heavy fighting between rebel group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government troops in the north of the country.
The Ministry of Health is currently providing medical care in the camps, using doctors from several health facilities. However, this is only a temporary solution. MSF has two international doctors and two nurses ready to work in mobile clinics in the camps if more people come in or in case the Ministry of Health requests further assistance.
In Vavuniya hospital, the main facility for emergency treatment in the area, MSF’s surgeon has operated on 144 patients. Some 107 of these patients needed surgery as a result of injuries sustained during the violence. The MSF surgeon is operating alongside two Ministry of Health counterparts. MSF is looking into supporting the Ministry of Health with an anaesthesiologist and other medical staff, and has also provided the hospital with 100 mattresses and bed linens, anticipating a new influx of patients.
In the past week, MSF distributed food supplements to more than 2,500 people, focussing on children under five, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers. “People lived under dire conditions while still in the conflict zone, with little food for days on end,” said Head of Mission Annemarie Loof. “Now that they’re in a safer area, we need to give extra food to those people who need it most. These food supplements add an extra 500 calories to their daily diet, which does matter a lot in their situation.”
MSF is providing cash to destitute families in immediate need of basic household and hygiene items. Most people left everything behind in the war-torn Vanni district of Northern Province, after they’ve had to move every couple of days before they could cross the frontline into government-controlled territory.
While the past two weeks saw an increase in civilians who managed to escape the conflict, the numbers has slowed considerably in the last couple of days. MSF continues to seek urgent access to the 200,000 people in the Vanni and urges both parties to the conflict to do their utmost to ensure the safety of civilians who remain trapped in the fighting.