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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

New hospitals for tsunami-affected communities in Sri Lanka

Restoring health care

© UNICEF video
New mother T. Lafara recently gave birth in a UNICEF-built hospital in Sri Lanka.

By Steve Nettleton

POTTUVIL, Sri Lanka, 26 December 2008 – For the first time since the waves of the tsunami destroyed her home and her family’s livelihood, T. Lafara is celebrating a new addition to her family. She cradles a newborn girl in her arms, as she drifts back and forth in the yard outside her home.

This is her third child – one she’s been waiting years to have, until her family could sort out its living arrangements in the wake of the 2004 disaster. Now Ms. Lafara has a new house, and the baby arrived in August, soon after the opening of a new district hospital with a full-service maternity ward.

“The old clinic in this area did not have much space, and there were only two or three doctors when my first child was born,” said Ms. Lafara. “The new hospital is spacious with more doctors. We have lavatories and it’s clean there.”

Safe deliveries expected to increase

The new UNICEF-built hospital in the eastern Sri Lankan town of Pottuvil serves a community of 50,000 families. Most of them were displaced by the tsunami. Before the disaster, the nearest maternity hospital was more than 45 km away, in an area under threat by Sri Lanka’s civil war.

Doctors now expect baby deliveries to jump nearly fivefold, to about 100 births a month.

“Before the tsunami, they didn’t have trust in the health system in this area,” said Dr. Ameenudeen of the Pottuvil District Hospital. “Before, we had only a small hospital without any facilities. After the tsunami, after this hospital was built, more patients are coming, and admissions are up. So we see the changes.”

Constructing smaller clinics

In addition to the district hospital, UNICEF is helping in the construction of smaller community clinics, which provide immunizations, family-planning health education and other services.

One such clinic, in Kalmunai South, stands as a sign of renewal on a beachfront still lined with thousands of ruins of homes and shops that were devastated by the tsunami. The clinic gives new and soon-to-be parents convenient care close to their homes.

It’s an effort to ensure that, four years after the tsunami, a new generation of Sri Lankans doesn’t have to suffer from a disaster it never knew.




UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on new hospitals and clinics in tsunami-affected Sri Lanka.
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