Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Sunday, 22 March 2009

Sri Lanka clinic gets vital drugs

By Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News, Colombo

Civilians forced out by Sri Lanka fighting
Many civilians have been forced to flee the fighting

A consignment of essential medicines has been received by the last remaining major health facility in rebel-held territory in north-east Sri Lanka.

Doctors had feared they would be forced to close the makeshift hospital due to a severe shortage of vital drugs.

But they say the delivery will help keep it open for at least two weeks.

International concern is rising over the condition of tens of thousands of civilians caught up in fighting between security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels.

This was the first consignment of medicines sent to the hospital in the conflict zone in north-eastern Sri Lanka in over two weeks.

'Lives at risk'

More than 50 essential medical items from the government, including vaccines for children, were delivered to the hospital at Putumatalan in Mullaitivu district with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The senior health official in the region, Dr T Varatharaja, said they were very happy to receive the supplies, which would help them run the hospital for a couple more weeks.

Doctors had earlier said the facility had almost stopped functioning due to the shortage of medicines, putting the lives of hundreds of sick and war-wounded at risk.

Dr Varatharaja also says that despite repeated requests they had not been sent the anaesthetic and blood bags required for surgery in the latest consignment.

The government maintains that it continues to send the required medicine and food to civilians trapped inside rebel-controlled territory.

Meanwhile, the defence ministry said more than 1,000 civilians fled the war zone and reached government-controlled areas on Saturday.

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