Views & Reviews Personal View

Sri Lanka: health as a weapon of war?

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b2304 (Published 08 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2304
  1. Shiamala Suntharalingam, general practitioner, London
  1. shiamala{at}hotmail.com

    In 2003 I worked as an overseas volunteer doctor for six months in the Tamil north. That is when I realised the extent of the physical and psychological trauma that the Tamil people had faced during Sri Lanka’s 30 year civil war. Throughout the conflict successive governments have used access to medicines as a weapon of war against the Tamils who were living outside the military controlled areas in the Tamil north east of the island (http://reliefweb.int/rw/RWFiles2007.nsf/FilesByRWDocUnidFilename/RMOI-7CU24Q-full_report.pdf/$File/full_report.pdf). The recent conflict, which began in 2006, is no different.

    Since 2006 the Sri Lankan government and its armed forces have systematically blocked the provision of clean water, shelter, food, and medicines by civil organisations as well as local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=19300). In 2008 all international NGOs working in the northern region of Vanni, including Médecins Sans Frontières, were ordered out. It became a war without any witnesses.

    In December 2004 the Boxing Day tsunami brought more death and destruction to people who were already …

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