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Muslim Aid Media Centre


Picking up the pieces after the Sri Lanka conflict

Amjad Saleem, Country Director for Sri Lanka reports on Muslim Aid's work during the last week:

“The Muslim Aid hospital is treating about 1,300 patients a day. It is interesting to see the different temperaments of people when faced with the challenge of seeing a huge number of patients on a daily basis with the most minimal of facilities and with a lack of proper toilets for the staff or food.   Whilst general conditions are improving in the camp, diseases such as hepatitis, chicken pox are common.  The authorities are talking about setting up isolation areas to quarantine these cases rather than putting a strain on the already crowded hospitals.  We have already been instructed not to send patients to Vavunia hospital as it has reached full capacity.

Unfortunately we have also faced our first case of people dying as a result of being transported from our hospital via the ambulance to the government hospitals.  An old man died, after suffering from diarrhoea and long term neglect.  Old or young, it is never easy to have people die on your watch.  Our team of volunteers and staff were hit badly by this death as reality finally struck on the magnitude of the impact of our operations. 

Manik Farm is divided into 4 camps.  Each camp has roughly around 50,000 people and is divided into 22 sectors with  around 42 toilets per sector.  Each sector has its own kitchen.  Food from outside is no longer accepted as the authorities want to encourage community cooking.  People belonging to one sector cannot eat from another sector as they are given a token that is valid to get food from their own sector kitchen.  Whilst there is still a need for more facilities, it is obvious that this order will be good for the future.

The government is hoping to use the local village heads or Grama Sevakas around the sectors in order to do the registration as well as distribution of relief.  By using this system, it is hoped that villages will be covered and people are on the whole will be reached.  However there is a logistical problem in terms of getting these Grama Sevakas to move around the camp due to the geographical distance to be covered.  Muslim Aid was able to meet the need of these Grama Sevakas by providing 40 push bikes in order to help them move around.

Muslim Aid has also been donating clothes, hygiene packs and toys (all from local donors) via the camp authorities to the displaced people in the camps.  In addition to this, medicine to the tune of $20,000 has also been provided. 

We have three water bowsers operating in the camp and are able to provide about 20,000 litres of water a day.  We have been given permission to set up our water purification plant in another camp and once that is done, we will be able to provide at least 40,000 litres a day.  Our plant has a capacity of purifying 100L a minute.   We have also decided to support the construction of toilets within the new zone that is being cleared for the new set of displaced people to come from the no fire zone. The new zone is zone 4 and is expected to accommodate 1,000 displaced families

Very often people forget that there are displaced people in Trincomalee and Jaffna as well.  Muslim Aid provided dinner (along with its partner Muslim Council of Sri Lanka) to about 2,200 displaced people.  In addition non-food items and hygiene packs have also been pledged for these peopleWe are also looking to work with the Methodist Church in Jaffna in responding to the needs there and are just waiting for the Government Agent of Jaffna to come back to us with needs.  Jaffna is a little bit more logistically difficult to access and so we are dependent on the local government in terms of the needs to be identified.

Further work has been carried out preparing to support over 50,000 people who are expected to come from the no-fire zone by providing about 5,000 food packs (which includes water, biscuits and dates) and about 2,500 boxes which will be used to transport bread to the no fire zone.  Each box can contain about 50 loaves of bread.  The air force is expected to airlift about 40,000 loaves of bread a day.

The challenge for us now is sustainability in terms of human resources and finances. In particular in Vavunia, with the security situation, it is difficult for us to properly recycle staff and volunteers and hence some of our staff have been working out there for the last two weeks at a stretch without proper food and sanitation in the camps during the day.  One of them fell ill but refused to stay in bed and continued to work as we were shorthanded.  Our other constraint is the finances as operational costs increase.  Our concern is about finding sustainable funds for this.”

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