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Doctor in Sri Lanka Hospital Describes Casualties from Ongoing Conflict

StoryApril 29, 2009
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Guests
Paul McMaster

doctor working with Doctors Without Borders at Vavuniya Hospital in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan military has blocked a United Nations aid mission from entering the area where the Sri Lankan military continues to attack Tamil Tiger separatists. Some 50,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the conflict zone. Paul McMaster is a doctor working with Doctors Without Borders at Vavuniya Hospital in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. He describes the situation on the ground. [includes rush transcript]


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We wrap up today with a few words from Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan military has blocked a United Nations aid mission from entering the area where the Sri Lankan military continues to attack Tamil Tigers. Some 50,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the conflict zone. The Sri Lankan government has dismissed a unilateral ceasefire declared by the Tamil Tigers. The UN is estimating as many as 6,500 civilians may have been killed so far this year in Sri Lanka. Another 14,000 have been wounded.

We turn now to Paul McMaster, a doctor working with Doctors Without Borders in a hospital in Northern Province of Sri Lanka. A few days ago, he spoke about the situation there.

    PAUL McMASTER: About three-quarters of the injured coming in now have suffered from blast injuries, and the rest are gunshot wounds and mine explosions that we’re seeing who survive in the field and actually reach us. We see abdominal injuries. But many of the chest or head injuries, we suspect, don’t survive the blasts to get to us.

    We’re doing a lot of amputations, and many of the lower limbs are severely, severely injured and/or blown off. So we’re doing emergency amputations. In a lot of these patients, we’re doing abdominal explorations for damage to internal organs and the bowel. And we’re dealing with chest injuries, draining damaged chests and lungs. And we’re dealing with some head injuries, as well. But the majority of the severe head injuries don’t make it to us.

    The buses are bringing these people down, and people are dying on those buses, and bodies are being taken off the buses sometimes, as well. We’re seeing a lot of men with severe injuries, but we’re also seeing a lot women and a lot of children. We’re doing amputations on children. We’re doing abdominal explorations for internal damage, as well, in children. And sometimes we’re operating on both a mother and father and a child from the same family that have been wounded in the same explosion or mine.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul McMaster is a doctor with Doctors Without Borders, speaking to us from Sri Lanka.

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