I’m looking at the Sigiriya rock. It is a big rock and I understand why people wanted to climb it. Briefly got a glimpse inside Menik Farm yesterday. Basically just dropped off goods, talked to the coordinating doctor and left, so can’t say too much. Spoke to some people at Cheddikulam Hospital and it’s pretty much the same. Had two cows and a house in Kilinochchi, house got bombed, now here. Old woman said they hid in a ditch till they could flee. Played with a 3 month old baby and he didn’t say much but just goggled about.
Security is much less than it used to be a month ago. They still check everything at Medavachchiya, but not everything. They’re selling army t-shirts before the checkpoint that fit like paint. Spoke to a major there and he said security has to be ongoing. They are trying to sneak things up in false panels of trucks, etc. I also saw an Abans guy with a truck full of air conditioners and washing machines and stuff, which was new. He said the French and German doctors were putting air conditioners in their tents, so apparently there’s electricity. Before you scoff, it’s hot, the doctor’s keep getting sick and they deserve whatever comforts they can get.
Vavuniya town is the same as ever, bustling town. If you take the Mannar road from Medavachchiya (or loop around through the town as we did) you get to Cheddikulam. This is the hospital closest to the camps. Spoke to a fellow (with decent English) who said he’d got up at 6 am to get permission, gotten to the hospital at 2, didn’t know when he could go back. There was a bus running the route but it was packed.
Interesting thing is the Vavuniya way to Menik Farm is populated with older settlements, World Bank and UNHCR tsunami (I think) villages from 2003, 2007, etc. First things I saw was a kid in school clothes eating a popsicle and a mobile bank (People’s Bank I think). Road that way is absolutely gutted.
Cheddikulam Hospital is running, a lot of people reposted from Puttalam, Vavuniya, wherever. Many docs I spoke to had been there for a matter of weeks, so that staffing problem is improving.
Go down the way and through not especially stringent security and you’re in Menik Farm. It is basically a city of metal sheeting in the middle of not much. Better than your average slum where like 50% of Colombians live. It’s just the sheer scale. It literally goes on forever. There’s a decent road through and you can just clip and it doesn’t seem to stop.
Unloaded meds at the coordinating office and talked to the doctor who was understandably rushed. There’s a lot of stats around, they asked if I could help implement some IT solution, think some Excel sheets would do. Basically seems like cases of communicable diseases like Hepatitis A and Chicken Pox are kinda stabilizing but diarrhea is rising. The main problems are water and sanitation. He says if those improve then things will pretty much stabilize. It is honestly an insane scale of settlement in a short amount of time.
I don’t get why the international media wants to come in and gawk when Sri Lankans are suffering and the pictures are bad, but doesn’t want to see or help actual improvement. Wait, I do get it. The situation is way better than a month ago and better than even two weeks ago. I personally think they need to screen and resettle as soon as possible just cause wat/san is fundamentally unmanagable at this scale.
However, the doctors and all are doing a great job and getting quite sick and tired themselves. Working with ministry chappies is a bit annoying, but I’ve been nothing but impressed with the professionalism of the army. Talking to people from the camps they’re just tired. Exhausted really. The heat and conditions are not great and really won’t be. I’ve heard people say they shouldn’t complain and people say they really should. They don’t really do either, they’re just sorta living and waiting in line all day.
The main thing about going up there is the constant waiting. Even to get in you wait and wait and wait. The sides and political issues don’t seem so clear or relevant in the heat and dust. One just wants a drink, a bath and a decent meal. I don’t know. Heading back up to Vavuniya town and Puvarasakulam today.