52-member Indian medical team to treat Sri Lankans (With Images)March 11th, 2009 - 1:29 pm ICT by IANS
By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, March 11 (IANS) A 52-member Indian medical team including physicians and surgeons left here Wednesday for Sri Lanka’s east to treat civilians wounded in fighting between the military and the Tamil Tigers.
The team will establish a medical unit including a full-fledged hospital at Pulmoddai in Trincomalee district to supplement the Sri Lankan health ministry’s efforts in that area for the displaced people.
Indian diplomatic officials said the Indian medical team can function on its own in terms of logistics and medical infrastructure.
Twenty truckloads of medical items and equipment have already been sent to Pulmoddai.
Sri Lankan Minister for Healthcare and Nutrition Nimal Sripala de Silva met the members of the Indian medical team Wednesday morning at Colombo’s Hotel Taj Samudra, minutes before their departure for Pulmoddai.
At the brief ceremony, Indian High Commissioner Alok Prasad handed over to the minister a token parcel of Indian medical assistance valued at 70 million Sri Lankan rupees.
Describing it “an outstanding example of very close cooperation between the governments of India and Sri Lanka”, Prasad said the Indian team would be in Sri Lanka for “an initial period of one month”.
Their stay can be extended if the situation required, he added.
Thanking the Indian government and people, Silva said that it symbolized the close friendship between the two countries.
“Unlike most countries who are issuing statements asking us to do this, do that without knowing the ground realities of terrorism, the Indian assistance has come at a time of need. It has demonstrated India’s constructive support to solve the (separatist) problem,” the minister said.
“It is a token of goodwill and friendship between India and Sri Lanka. We are positive India has taken a very positive step,” he said.
Over 35,000 people have fled areas held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and entered government territory since the beginning of 2009. Most of them are being housed at welfare centres and transit camps in the northern town of Vavuniya.
Stressing that helping internally displaced people “is the responsibility of the government of Sri Lanka and not anybody else”, the minister, however, said that India had been “so kind enough to assist” the island nation at a time of need.
“We wholeheartedly welcome the support by India in order to ensure that the necessary health and medical facilities are extended … at a very high quality and care,” he said.
In his speech, the high commissioner underlined India’s commitment to assist Sri Lanka in meeting the urgent medical needs of the people forced to flee their homes because of the war.
He thanked the Sri Lankan authorities for “readily facilitating the arrival, the movement and the establishment of the hospital at Pulmoddai”.
“It speaks a lot about the cooperation between the two countries that the medical team has arrived here with all their equipment within a few days of the decision taken between the two governments,” Prasad said.
“This is our disaster response mechanism, which is always available. The doctors are picked up from wherever they are available to be able to move at a short notice. Some of them are from the army medical unit,” he said, answering to question on the composition of the medical team.
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