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MSF in Sri Lanka, 2007
Field Staff: 163
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Whilst a cease-fire agreement was signed between the warring factions in 2002, conflict erupted again in 2006.
In 2007, war escalated in the northern and eastern parts of the island. Daily life is dominated by the conflict, with fighting at the frontlines, aerial bombings (sometimes on civilian settlements), roadside mines, restrictions on movements, suicide bombings, abductions, judicial executions, disappearances and arbitrary arrests.
Insecurity seriously hampers access to people affected by the conflict but so do the government restrictions on humanitarian assistance. Few humanitarian organizations are in a position to address needs and people are left without access to healthcare. Although MSF returned to the country in 2006, it was not until January 2007 that the Minister of Health authorized the teams to start providing care. MSF offers surgical, obstetric/gynecological and pediatric care in government-controlled and LTTE-held zones in the northern part of the island.
The conflict and resulting insecurity have led many health workers to flee and there is now a serious shortage of health specialists in conflict areas. In government hospitals, MSF nurses and doctors are filling health staff gaps to assist victims of the conflict.
MSF has started three programs in Point Pedro (east of Jaffna Peninsula), Vavuniya and Mannar, all government-controlled areas close to the frontline of conflict where the population is particularly at risk. Working with local staff, MSF offers quality general and emergency surgery and obstetrics assistance. MSF performed more than 6,000 surgical procedures.
MSF was also able to extend activities in conflict and LTTE-controlled areas. MSF holds a surgical outpatient clinic in Point Pedro and supports the Vavuniya district hospital, which also serves as the referral hospital for people living in the LTTE-controlled area. In May, MSF launched a project in Kilinochchi, in the heart of the LTTE-held region. However, due to the fighting in Mannar district, MSF was unable to start supporting Adampan hospital, also situated in a LTTE-held region.
MSF established a project in Batticaloa to assist 12,000 internally displaced people by conducting mobile clinics and providing relief supplies. However, as the situation improved, by the end of the year MSF handed over the project.
MSF has worked in Sri Lanka since 1986.