Thousands of civilians are suffering severe injury and displacement due to intense fighting between the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil Tigers. Over 100,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IPDs) have fled Northern Sri Lanka, overwhelming aid camps and filling hospitals.
According to the United Nations, nearly 6,500 civilians have been killed in the past three months and more than 50,000 civilians remained trapped inside the war zone.
Doctors Without Borders has worked in Sri Lanka since 2007, and is very involved with relief efforts as the conflict rages on. In these reports we gain understanding of what is happening on the ground.
MSF has 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.
SRI LANKA UPDATE – Monday, April 27, 2009
Injured, Displaced People Continue to Arrive From Conflict Zone
The Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Ministry of Health medical staff at Vavuniya hospital continued to work around the clock this past weekend. Patient numbers stabilized at 1,700, as some injured are now being diverted to other hospitals.
MSF has offered to scale up its medical activities and is currently in discussions with Sri Lankan authorities to get permission to do so.
The thousands of people who were waiting at Omanthai checkpoint on Friday have now been transferred to Manik Farm, an open area with temporary camps about 25 miles southwest of Vavuniya. There are now a total of 100,000 displaced people at Manik Farm and bulldozers are clearing land to make space for new arrivals.
Paul McMaster is working along with another Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) surgeon and Ministry of Health staff at Vavuniya hospital in the Northern province of Sri Lanka to treat some of the tens of thousands of civilians streaming out of the Vanni, the conflict zone to the north.
Vavuniya Hospital, Sri Lanka – Sunday, April 26, 2009
Paul McMaster, an MSF surgeon working at Vavuniya hospital, described the situation on Sunday night, April 26.
Medical staff are still working around the clock and the situation is changing day to day.
The number of patients admitted requiring emergency surgery has dropped quite sharply before the weekend. On April 23 we had 44 patients, the first day the figure is below 100 since last Sunday. On April 24 we only had 18.
I have had no indication that fewer casualties are coming from the north, but because we have a backlog they are now trying to divert patients to other hospitals.
There are still people crowded in the wards, in the corridors, on the floor-with fractures, open bullet wounds and blast injuries. There are many people who have been waiting on the wards to go into theatre, some of them for up to 24 hours.
On Saturday, Tim-the other MSF surgeon-and the Sri Lankan team that arrived last Thursday were in theatre until late at night getting through the backlog of cases.
I spent the whole of yesterday seeing hundreds and hundreds of patients, examining x-rays, stitching wounds, plastering, getting people on crutches and mobile, and teaching physiotherapy to nurses. There is only one physiotherapist for the whole hospital.
Today, Tim stayed in the hospital and I went with other colleagues to Mannar hospital, in the west, to see if they can help with our casualties. All hospitals are really struggling. Mannar hospital has 350 beds for almost 1,000 patients and some of them are in tents outside the hospital building.
We also drove to Manik Farm today, 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) southwest of Vavuniya. There are now 100,000 displaced people. Bulldozers are clearing more land to make more room and UNICEF is putting tents up by the hundreds. We went to assess the needs and see what MSF can do there.
One man who had arrived at Manik Farm from the north a few days ago came up to us saying “I have nothing, I have nothing.” He was just standing there, shell-shocked, just telling us “I have nothing.”
I am in Vavuniya this evening and it is pouring with rain so if it is raining like this in Manik Farm, the camps will turn into mud baths.
This weekend we have nearly cleared the surgical backlog and the Sri Lankan surgical team left earlier today. We might be getting another one later this week.
I’ve not heard that the fighting is stopping and I don’t know how many more wounded will come but we are ready for the next wave, if it comes.
We take each day as it comes.
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