EMERGENCY UPDATE: Aid Operations to Disaster Areas in South Asia

December 28, 2004 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency medical teams are assessing the needs of populations in the areas hit hardest by the earthquake and tsunami in South Asia. MSF is airlifting more than 60 tons of medical, surgical, and water-and-sanitation equipment to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Currently, MSF teams are on the ground in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Sri Lanka
MSF has sent 12 humanitarian aid workers, including doctors, surgeons, nurses, and logisticians, to Sri Lanka. Additional aid workers are on stand-by. A full charter plane with 30 tons of aid supplies is leaving Wednesday for Colombo, Sri Lanka. In addition to relief materials, among the cargo is all the equipment and supplies to set up a hospital to assist 10,000 people for a period of three months.

One of the MSF teams is conducting an assessment of the situation in the eastern coastal town of Batticaloa, where the United Nations estimates that more that 650 people have died and 40,000 more have been left homeless. Another MSF team is heading to Ampara, also in the eastern province. At least 5,700 people in the district were killed and more than 90,000 have been displaced by the disaster.

MSF is airlifting 32 tons of medical and sanitation supplies to Medan, in northern Sumatra, which is just south of Banda Aceh. The cargo includes generators, water bladders, and tanks, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, chlorination kits, and a hospital tent. An eight-person team arrived in Jakarta today with three-and-half tons of medical supplies to re-supply two hospitals and 20 health posts in the area.

"Malaria and dengue fever will be big problems in the current situation," said Jan Weuts, who oversees MSF's emergency operations in Indonesia. "We are specifically looking at limiting the risk of these diseases and driving up the already horrible death toll, in addition to preparing for what we know to expect from our previous experiences of the aftermath of earthquakes and floods."

An MSF team is conducting an assessment in Chennai, the capital city of India's Tamil Nadu state, and further south to Nagapattinam district and the city of Pondicherry. The coastal area has been severely affected and families are still searching for missing people. There has been a strong response from the government and local communities.

Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar/Burma
In addition to these aid operations, MSF is continuing an assessment of the southern coast of Thailand, including in Phuket, the resort area hit by the disaster. MSF also dispatched two physicians to identify any humanitarian needs on Penang Island in Malaysia. MSF has sent a team to evaluate the situation in the coastal areas between Myeik and Kawthong in the far southeast of Myanmar/Burma.