Critical medicine shortage

MSF concerned by the critical shortage of essential medicines in northern Sri Lanka

Press release, Colombo Sri Lanka, April 17, 2000 - The emergency medical organisation Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) today called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to allow the re-supply of urgently needed essential medicines to the northern region of the country. Over the past three months, drug supplies have become drastically depleted in the war-torn Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts and attempts by humanitarian agencies to renew stocks have been unsuccessful.

On two occasions within the last week, MSF has been prevented by security forces from transporting drugs and medical supplies through the Forward Defence Lines to Mallavi Hospital in Mullaitivu district. Three months of Government Ministry of Health supplies are also still awaiting approval and transportation into the northern region.

"The shortage of medications has become so critical that patients are being turned away from hospitals and clinics without receiving the necessary treatment," says Isabel Simpson, MSF Head of Mission in Sri Lanka. "We are facing a situation where clinics and hospitals have closed or are no longer accepting patients because they cannot provide treatment for these civilians, many of whom are women and children".

At Mallavi Hospital, over 800 patients have left the hospital in the past month without receiving any medication. Many of these patients suffer from chronic debilitating diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, cardiac problems and epilepsy. Every day without medication increases the risks for complications in their conditions which may seriously deteriorate or even become fatal. Essential drugs for the treatment of malaria are also in extremely short supply, as well as basic essential medicines such as Paracetamol, antibiotics and paediatric preparations.

MSF urges the Government of Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Defence to urgently consider the health status of the civilian population in these districts and expedite the transport of medical supplies into these areas without further delay.