As Colombo celebrates the end of the conflict as declared by the government of Sri Lanka, thousands of people are leaving the former conflict zone, arriving in Vavuniya district in desperate need of medical care. Traumatized and exhausted — hundreds of them injured — a staggering 50,000 people have arrived in Vavuniya district since Fri., May 16.Many thousands more are still expected in the coming days. “Despite increasing the number of staff, MSF teams are overwhelmed by the huge and sudden influx of people,” says Katrien Coppens, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) operational manager. Since Saturday, MSF teams have been working alongside the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health doing triage at the main crossing point, selecting the most seriously injured, treating and stabilizing them on site. On average there are 10,000 people arriving at this checkpoint every day, and MSF is treating roughly 200 of the most seriously wounded and ill patients. About 30 per cent of people are then transferred to the Vavuniya hospital. The rest are sent to the camps where there are Ministry of Health medical staff. “The triage is extremely difficult. In order to prioritize the most critically ill and wounded, many patients in need of treatment simply cannot receive immediate care,” says Coppens. There are 1,900 patients are currently in Vavuniya General Hospital, which has only a 450 bed capacity. Many of these people are lying on mattresses on the floor and in the corridors. “We had seen a gradual decrease in the number of patients arriving at Vavuniya hospital in the past two weeks, but it was just the calm before a full blown storm of medical and humanitarian needs,” says Coppens. MSF has been providing supplementary feeding for the displaced people arriving in the camps of Zone 4 in Manik Farm, where the new arrivals are being sent. As of last night, a total of 23,000 people in had arrived since the weekend and many more are expected to come. MSF is setting up an additional emergency field hospital in Manik Farm with a bed capacity of 100 and is supporting the Ministry of Health Hospital in Pampaimadu.
Sri Lanka: Thousands of new arrivals overwhelm medical facilities
Voice from the Field