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MSF in Sri Lanka, 2011
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In 2011, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continued to support people affected by the civil war in Sri Lanka’s Northern province, which ended in 2009. National health authorities worked to restore the health system in places damaged in the conflict, and by September, MSF found that general health services, though suffering shortages, were managing to meet basic needs. The team therefore focused on specialist medical care and mental health services.
Reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation
In 2009, a specialist team began performing reconstructive orthopedic surgery in Vavuniya general hospital. In 2011, the team operated on 150 people with complicated war-related injuries. The program was closed in December, and medical equipment, drugs and surgical supplies were handed over to the Ministry of Health.
People with spinal injuries received care at MSF’s rehabilitation program in Pampaimadhu hospital, in Vavuniya. Rehabilitation has a positive impact, not only on people’s quality of life, but also on their life expectancy. The team at the hospital provided medical treatment, physiotherapy and mental healthcare. Physiotherapy increases patients’ mobility, and coaching helps prepare them for life outside the unit. Staff also helped patients to find training or work when they left the unit.
In October, when 90 patients had completed their treatment and left the program, MSF withdrew, handing all facilities and equipment over to the Ministry of Health.
Surgery and emergency care
At the hospitals in Point Pedro, in the far north, and Mullaitivu, on the northeast coast, MSF staff assisted in the provision of emergency care, surgery and gynecological and obstetric services. Surgeons performed 1,720 major operations and 1,600 minor procedures. Medical staff held over 6,900 emergency consultations. Approximately 5,300 women received antenatal care, and 929 births were assisted.
At Point Pedro, MSF also offered training to hospital staff in laboratory hygiene, sterilization and infection control, before withdrawing at the end of the year. The team in Mullaitivu continues its activities, which include improving local people’s access to healthcare by operating mobile clinics at five different sites around the district. Staff carried out more than 11,500 consultations over the course of the year.
MSF expanded its psychological support services in Mullaitivu district substantially during 2011. Most patients were women who had been living in the displaced people’s camps after the war. Staff worked at eight different sites in the district and conducted almost 3,600 individual and group counseling sessions. A psychiatrist treated patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, epilepsy and psychosis.
Staff also offered mental healthcare in Kilinochchi. More than 433 patients, many of whose relatives had died during the conflict, attended counselling sessions.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 310 staff in Sri Lanka. MSF first worked in the country in 1986.