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MSF in Sri Lanka, 2010
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The 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka ended in May 2009. Hundreds of thousands of people who had been displaced from their homes in the north and confined to camps were resettled or allowed to return home by the beginning of 2010, and MSF adapted its activities in light of these developments.
Set up at the end of 2009, the MSF rehabilitation programme in Pampaimadhu hospital, close to the northern town of Vavuniya, assists patients who have suffered spinal cord injuries. Such injuries are frequently sustained in conflict zones as shrapnel, gunshot and explosive blasts can cut, pull or compress the spinal cord. Victims can become numb or even paralysed from the point of injury down, and frequently lose normal bladder and bowel control. Rehabilitation has a huge impact not only on patients’ quality of life but also on their life expectancy. This innovative programme integratesmedicaltreatment, physiotherapy and mental healthcare.
In partnership with Ministry of Health staff, MSF helped patients to manage their health issues and assisted them with daily physical rehabilitation activities to improve mobility. MSF also conducted 840 counselling sessions.In 2010, 40 new patients were admitted to the programme.
In Vavuniya general hospital, MSF built an operating theatre for reconstructive orthopaedic surgery and supplied specialist surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses to operate on patients with complicated war-related injuries. Patients received long-term post-operative care to ensure full recovery. In total, 58 surgical procedures were carried out in the operating theatre during 2010.
Mental healthcare in Kilinochchi district
Since November 2010, MSF has provided counselling to people suffering from mental trauma in partnership with the Kilinochchi District Mental Health Unit, in the far north of Sri Lanka. Most patients were suffering from bereavement or missing family members because of the conflict. Staff held both individual and family counselling sessions.
Menik Farm camp
Many of the people in the government-run camp for displaced people at Menik Farm witnessed deeply traumatic events during the last phase of the civil war. To support the efforts of the Ministry of Health and the psychiatry department of Vavuniya hospital, at the beginning of 2010 MSF began offering mental healthcare to people living in the camp.
A psychiatrist and a psychologist worked with Sri Lankan counsellors and community social officers to identify and treat people who needed care. The team treated a total of 1,520 patients and gave around 4,300 counselling sessions in 2010. The project was closed in November, as over the course of the year people left the camps to return to their homes. MSF provided mental healthcare to many returnees in the district of Mullaitivu.
MSF also provided supplementary food to 8,864 people in Menik Farm camp at the beginning of the year to prevent vulnerable groups from suffering from severe acute malnutrition. By February, the need for nutrition activities had decreased and MSF handed its programme over to the organisation World Vision International.
The scene of some of the fiercest fighting at the end of the civil war, Mullaitivu district saw a steady stream of people returning home in 2010. MSF assisted in the provision of emergency care, gynaecological and obstetric care, and surgery in the Mullaitivu district hospital. An MSF team helped improve the water supply and waste disposal in the hospital and also rehabilitated the laboratory.
In the last months of the year, a doctor and an operating theatre nurse started working in the emergency unit, and over November and December held 564 consultations. Mobile clinics, providing basic healthcare, were conducted in the surrounding area.
MSF continued to support specialist activities in Point Pedro hospital, the second largest health structure in the Jaffna peninsula. Staff provided emergency healthcare, gynaecological and obstetric services, as well as surgery. Nearly 3,000 consultations took place in the emergency department, with around 390 patients admitted to the intensive care unit. Surgeons performed 963 major surgeries, which required general or spinal anaesthetic. More than 4,200 women received antenatal care and 1,130 babies were delivered.
MSF also offered training to hospital staff in laboratory services, hygiene and sterilisation, and was able to fill gaps in the provision of medical supplies as well as medicines.