WHO support to humanitarian efforts in North Sri Lanka has been mainly directed through the
Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Northern Provincial Ministry of Health. The
aim of WHO support is to ensure that everyone has access to adequate and
essential health care services whether they are in the Internally Displaced
Personnel (IDP) Welfare Centers or in their areas of origin in the Vanni following the Government’s accelerated programme of resettlement.
What was going on during the past
The provision of health care services
is continuing to the remaining 40,000 internally displaced people who are
still in the IDP camp of Manik Farm. Providing
health care facilities to returnees who are being resettled in their places
of origin is a challenge faced by the
health authorities as well as the health cluster partners. The resettlement process which started in
2009 was accelerated in the first half of year 2010. This meant that better
coordination and more organized efforts were needed to better provide for in
the resettlement areas. Disaster Preparedness and Response Unit (DPRU) of the
MOH was in the forefront of the operations with the able assistance of WCO.
Manik Farm continued
to be the only area accommodating displaced people and Cheddikulum Base
Hospital continued to be the first
point of referral for their patients with Vavuniya District General
Hospital as its back
Hospital continued to
accommodate patients with infectious diseases. The Mumps outbreak which
occurred during the second week of April in Manik
Farm had been controlled by the well developed disease surveillance system
coupled with the efficient health communication programme
to the communities.
WCO continued to support the
rehabilitation work of health facilities by the MOH in the Vanni, such as Dharpmapuram and
Hospitals in Kilinochchi. In addition, WCO supported hospitals in Mannar, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts by providing medical equipment and
furniture. Ten motorcycles have also been procured to support PHI work in 5
districts of the Vanni. Three hospitals (Mallavi Hospital in Mullaitivu
district, Mulankavil Hospital and Kilinochchi Hospital in Killinochchi
district were provided with audio
visual equipment to strengthen the hospital health education programme .
continued to support the strengthening of human resources working in
the resettlement areas by mobilization of additional medical officers,
nursing officers, public health inspectors, community support officers for
mental health and even health volunteers. In short WCO support was extended
to in many different ways in strengthening many different programs such as
Disease Surveillance, Curative Services, Mental Health, Health Education,
Family Planning, Prevention of Gender Based Violence, Water Quality Testing
and strengthening Health Coordination Cluster Mechanism.
What were the challenges observed
or encountered during the last six months
Resource mobilization was easier during
the emergency stages of the humanitarian crisis. However, with the end of
emergency phase and transitioning into early recovery and development, “donor
interest” and “donor fatigue” had been observed causing difficulties in getting
funds to continue rehabilitation activities in the resettlement areas.
However an increased interest of
developmental agencies such as World Bank and Asian Development Bank had been
observed and might be a good option to tap.
Another challenge identified in the
health sector is the lack of human resources. Although WHO had been able to
support the MOH in providing Medical Assistants and Public Health Inspectors
resettlement areas, such support is not sustainable. The MOH would need to
increase efforts and work with the local administration to permanently assign
medical doctors, nurses and other medical staff with proper accommodation
facilities to host them in the resettlement areas.
What will be the next step since
no emergency now in the North?
WCO will continue to support
sustainable development in North and even in the East. With the MOH, health
need and gaps will be identified and addressed accordingly. WCO will continue
to lead the health cluster coordination in Colombo and in Vavuniya
and will continue to support the capacity building of health staff including
health administrators and strengthen the health system. Although DPRU was successful in catering to
the health needs of the people during the emergency situation, the rebuilding
of the health system in Northern Province will need to be led by the
Management, Development and Planning Unit (MDPU) in the central MOH, with
support from the Northern Provincial Health Ministry and the Regional
Directors of Health Services in the resettlement areas well. Through their
coordinated efforts, health services shall be available to the resettlement
population and the host population as well.
What was the assistance provided
by WCO during the recent flash floods in Sri Lanka
Hundreds of thousands of persons were affected by the heavy rains
experienced during the month of May 2010 in Sri Lanka. The heavy showers along with lightning,
thunder storms resulted in flash floods, high levels of water, strong wind
and landslides. More than 600,000 persons (141,000 families) were affected
including some 15,000 persons who were displaced due to some of the worst
rains on record. WHO was able to respond rapidly and supported the MOH surge
capacity by providing US$ 15,000 to respond to the most affected districts – Kalutara, Gampaha, Colombo, Matara, Galle and Puttalam. WCO also provided 60,000
chlorine tablets to the MOH to be used for flood relief measures while we continued to provide necessary technical support to
the Regional Director of Health Services in the Gampaha
district and the MOH in the control of communicable diseases. Health education activities of the displaced population were part and
parcel of the MOH activities in their control of communicable diseases by
boosting public awareness on water borne diseases.
What are the preparative measures
for any form of emergencies which Sri Lanka may encounter like flash floods/landslides/draughts or
even conflict in the future?
WCO will help MOH in finalizing the
Emergency Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of the health sector. In
addition, WHO will also continue to support the Public Health Emergency
Management and Preparedness (PHEMAP) training courses in the University of Perandeniya,
to supplement the MOH program on preparedness and response to any emergency
in the country.