A 'full blown storm of medical and humanitarian needs' in Sri Lanka

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.

Traumatised and exhausted – with hundreds injured – a staggering 50,000 people have arrived in Vavuniya district since 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,” said Katrien Coppens, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Operational Manager in Amsterdam.

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, then treating and stabilising them on site. On average there are 10,000 arriving at this checkpoint every day, and MSF is treating roughly 200 of the most seriously wounded and ill patients.

About 30 percent 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,” said Coppens.

“There are 1,900 patients are currently in Vavuniya General Hospital that has only a 450 bed capacity (many of them 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 Thursday May 21, a total of 23,000 people had arrived in less than a week 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.