Lankan deaths blamed on poor medical supply | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 19, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 19, 2009

Lankan deaths blamed on poor medical supply

A lack of medical supplies has led to the needless deaths of hundreds of hospital patients in parts of northern Sri Lanka ravaged by civil war, the regions' top health officials said.
The international Red Cross said conditions for civilians were "deteriorating by the day," and the UN Children's Fund said thousands of children were at risk because of "a critical lack of food, water and medicines."
In a letter to the Health Ministry, officials from two northern Sri Lankan regions said just 5 percent of the needed drugs and dressings were received in the last quarter of 2008 and the first part of this year.
The letter, seen Tuesday by The Associated Press, was signed by the health officers of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. Kilinochchi was the headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam until it was overrun by government troops in early January.
The last remaining remnants of the rebels are fighting in Mullaitivu to hold on to a shrinking swath of land estimated at 13.5 square miles (35 square kilometers) on the northeast coast.
The letter said more than 500 patients died since January after arriving at hospitals and that thousands of others may have died outside of hospitals.
"Most of the hospital deaths could have been prevented if basic infrastructure facilities and essential medicines were made available," it said.
On Tuesday, a further 23 patients died out of 108 wounded civilians taken to a makeshift hospital in the northeast, said Kandasamy Tharmakulasingham, a hospital administrative officer.
Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said any letter coming out of the rebel territory is "suspicious and subject to verification." He declined further response until he could consult senior health officials.
The UN says 150,000 to 180,000 civilians, displaced from Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, are trapped in the war zone. The government says the figure is much lower, and on Tuesday the Sri Lankan president told the U.N. chief Tamil rebels are holding the civilians by force.

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