Australian Medical Team Services Multiple Camps in Ampara District

[TamilNet, Sunday, 09 January 2005, 09:10 GMT]
The visiting medical team from Australia has now formally taken over the medical services for 3 camps housing nearly 5000 individuals in the Alaiyampadivembu division in Akkaraipattu in the eastern Ampara district. A total lack of coordination and interest by the local authorities led to the medical team approaching the DPDHS, head of the health services, for the region and formally requesting to go in and start servicing these camps. This was welcomed by the DPDHS.


Base camp of the visiting Australian Medical Team

Camp 1
Open Kitchen in Camp 1 with poor sanitation.
Team Meeting
Debriefing / planning meeting in progress.
Camp 3
Sanitary Nightmare - Toilets.
Temporary Toilet
Appalling temporary toilet and its surrounds in Camp 3.
The team was headed by Dr. Siven Seevanayagam, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, and comprised of seven doctors, three highly experienced emergency medicine nurses and a pharmacist, all from Australia plus a doctor from the UK. The team is assisted by a local NGO, Center for Healthcare (CHC). The team is housed in Akkaraipattu and is looked after by the neighbors for meals and other housekeeping assistance

The team is coordinating all health related activities including sanitation by working closely with the multitude of NGO's present in the region.

In an interview with TamilNet, the team highlighted the divided nature of relief efforts in the region. No coordination exists in any of the Tamil camps and the sanitation is appalling. Basic toilet facilities have not been established with only one or two toilets for more than 1200 individuals in a camp. Water is stagnant in pools and these are very close to the areas where cooking is taking place.

The public health inspectors are starting to return and chlorinate these pools of water. Dr. Seevanayagam had multiple meetings with the public health inspectors, the District Secretary and the NGOs. The problem of erecting temporary toilets in water logged soil was promoted as the excuse for the lack of toilets.

Hence the medical team came up with the suggestion of erecting permanent toilets, which would also benefit the schools later, Oxfam GB is now in the process of erecting these toilets. ZOA, another international NGO, has provided health volunteers to educate the people of basic sanitation in these camps.

So far no major traumatic injuries have been treated other than simple fractures. But, there have been quite a few cases of wound infections and scabies. Outbreaks of chicken pox and mumps have been seen but not become a problem yet. Chlorinated water is being used for drinking. It is feared that the lack of basic sanitation will lead to a catastrophe in these overcrowded camps.

The Australian medical team is committed to continuing these services for a minimum of 3 months and already other doctors and nurses are getting ready to take over from the team in Akkaraipattu. Dr. Sean Scott, from St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney is the current team leader and is keen for all visiting health teams to the region to coordinate their efforts so that a maximum number of camps could be serviced in this area hitherto totally neglected.

 

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