With heavy rains pouring down in the last days, the situation in Sri Lanka’s northern Vanni region has deteriorated further. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is concerned that watery diarrhea and respiratory infections will pose serious threats to the more than 150,000 civilians still estimated to be trapped in the area. People have been lacking drinking water, medicines and a sanitation system for weeks. Aid agencies have thus far been denied access to the people. Living in makeshift shelters, or surviving under the open sky, it is reported that people suffer from shelling while being prevented to escape by the armed group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers. Desperate for food, water, medical care and safety, an increasing number of people try to cross government lines, despite the risk of not making it into safer territory alive. Last week saw a wave of about 5,000 people arriving in the government-controlled area of Vavuniya, bringing the total number of people who escaped the Vanni to nearly 50, 000.
Patient influx expected
MSF is expecting an influx of new patients in the days to come. There are still a reported 1,000 amputees awaiting evacuation on the beach in the Vanni and MSF fears the medical needs among displaced people could overwhelm local capacity. On Jaffna Peninsula, 3,426 displaced people are housed in five camps in Jaffna district. Two camps for those displaced were set up in Kodikamam and Mirosuvil of Chavakachcheri district in the southern part of Jaffna, but access to these two camps is restricted. Despite an official request to the authorities, MSF has been denied authorization to conduct an assessment in these two camps by the Ministry of Defense. MSF keeps on trying to access these displaced people in Jaffna. Some of them were referred to Point Pedro Hospital for stabilization after having been shot during their trip from the conflict area.
Second MSF surgeon arrived
A second MSF surgeon arrived in Vavuniya hospital this week to work alongside Ministry of Health surgical staff. Last week the surgical team operated on 204 people, 193 of whom needed surgery for violence-related injuries. Space is running out in Vavuniya hospital, with two or more patients now sharing a bed. There are insufficient medical facilities to discharge patients to, and the level of care needed is such that they cannot stay in one of the shelter camps around Vavuniya. MSF has hired 55 local people to assist patients in their basic needs.