Territory: 65,610 km²
Population: 20.3 million
Tsunami in Sri Lanka
On December 26th 2004, the island of Sri Lanka was hit by a tsunami, triggered by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean measuring 9.1 on the Richter scale. After Indonesia, Sri Lanka was the country with the second most damage and casualties. It is estimated that around 38,000 people died in Sri Lanka as a result of the tsunami. Arugam Bay, in eastern Sri Lanka, was strongly affected, and 1.200 out of 5.000 people living in this area were killed. Most of the infrastructure in the Arugam Bay was practically fully destroyed, and those who lost their homes were housed in refugee camps.
DEMIRA in Sri Lanka
DEMIRA began its emergency response mission on January 6th 2005. The Emergency Response Unit (ERU) presented medical care to survivors of the tsunami disaster in the region of Arugam Bay and the surrounding areas. Our tent based hospital was the only medical facility in Arugam Bay, where 60 to 90 patients were treated per day and a total of approximately 15,000 patients from January to December 2005. Arugam Bay had no clinic and the nearest one was in extremely poor conditions, thus the ERU performed countless minor surgeries under local anesthesia or general anesthesia. Only when the equipment was not sufficient to help a patient, DEMIRA organised a transfer to a hospital in the capital of the district or to Colombo.
Once the situation no longer required emergency relief work, DEMIRA launched a medical preventive campaign. The members of the ERU team organised education sessions in 22 schools to inform on water hygiene, dental health and scabies. They helped to set up screenings for scabies and lice at local schools, and also provided several hundred vaccinations for tetanus, typhoid and rabies. Finally, DEMIRA also worked in collaboration with local committees to help restore the drinking water supplies and other relevant health policy issues.
Around 40 foreign aid workers were deployed, including 16 doctors, 10 paramedics and 9 nurses. On November 2005, DEMIRA began recruiting local doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and suppliers in order to initiate the transfer of the medical center into local hands.
In 2006 DEMIRA constructed a building and turned it into a medical center, equipped with an ambulance, an operations room, a room for overnight patients with two beds, a pharmacy and a simple laboratory. The building was donated to us by Mr. MNM Naphiel, the representative of DEMIRA in Sri Lanka and was inaugurated in November 2006.