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MSF talk of SL govt’s inability to care for Tamil civilians

April 22, 2009

MSF treating hundreds of wounded arriving from Sri Lankan war zone
According to international humanitarian law, when a government does not have the ability to provide basic needs to its citizens, it is obliged to allow international aid agencies to provide this care. The report by Médecins Sans Frontières shows that the Sri Lankan government is breaching this law.

There are over 1200 patients and the bed capacity is just over 400. “It’s chaotic” says Karen Stewart “the beds have been pushed together so it’s like one massive bed. Instead of having one person per bed you have two, it’s just like one huge bed across the ward. Then there’s a whole other layer on the ground, we have people under every bed, so that’s double capacity. You also have a lot of people who are outside in the walkways lying on mats.”

People arriving from the war zone are put into temporary government run camps in Vavuniya which are fast reaching maximum capacity. Families are cramped together, in some cases an entire family has to live in the space of a sofa. There is no freedom of movement in between the camps and only a minority have been able to find out any information about their loved ones who might be in other camps. “This” says Karen “is one of the biggest causes of mental health distress. They arrive, wounded, lost and skinny and then they are put in a camp where they can’t leave and they can’t call their family. They have no communication, they have nothing. There can be a husband and wife in two separate camps and they would never know.”

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