Just got back from Vavuniya, on an effectively private visit. Vavuniya is the biggest town in the Sri Lankan Wanni. Right now it’s even bigger because there are like 300,000 IDPs there, fleeing the war. Passing through, you can see that every hospital, school and ground has been repurposed for IDP use. The dire needs are in Menik Farm (Zone 4 specifically), where access is limited, but Vavuniya town is more accessible. My overall impression after talking to people there is that the humanitarian needs are being addressed, but the human ones are not. Specifically, families are separated and they need some means of finding their loved ones.
I visited the ward for infectious diseases, which is a repurposed maternal ward. It is now the home for over a thousand people, both the sick and their families. There are a lot of kids with chicken pox, Hepatitis A , scabies and other contagious diseases. These diseases spread with poor water and sanitation conditions. One of the guys I talked to said they needed more clean water. I saw the tanks where people were bathing and checked out one of about eight Red Cross latrines. They were usable enough.
The doctors mentioned a need for fluids to flush peoples systems, juice, milk, king coconut. A few people literally said they had the clothes on their back. Looking around, this is stuff that could be procured quite easily in Vavuniya town.
However, the issues people seem concerned about are not the medical or the physical. In most camps it seems those needs are being met. Obviously it’s ongoing and they need better. The main concern, though, seems to be information. Families are separated and they’re worried sick. One woman said her sons had been taken by the police and she hadn’t heard. Another said her sister and kids, etc. Everyone is separated from someone, often in their nuclear family.
What they want is basically a list. Just a list of names would do. To know who is in what camp. Another issue is that out of like ten people I talked to, one had a national ID. So these people need the proper paperwork as well. I try to avoid proposing stuff I can’t do much about, but I hope someone takes a decision to allow this level of information to the IDPs.
There is an ongoing need to screen IDPs, I even hear rumors that Pottu Amman is out and perhaps in the camps. There are certainly combatants and sympathizers. However, I think we could all agree that the need for a mother or father to find their child, a wife to find a husband is important. If you’ve ever lost someone, even for a moment, I think you’d understand. Now that the physical needs are met, this seems to be the main concern among the few IDPs I’ve met.