Sri Lanka Health Sector Response

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In Sri Lanka, the government provides free modern health care - this was a service that set high standards until two decades ago leading to first world human welfare indices - this service has been sustained notwithstanding dwindling resources, expanding need and poor organization. Many, especially in the rural areas, continue to use the indigenous medical systems of Ayurvedha and Unani, particularly for certain ailments - a practice that is now getting the support of the state. Private hospitals and part-time private doctors serve those who can afford to pay for more personalized treatment. It is the government system however that one call fall back on during emergency and this system is coordinated by the Ministry of Health. There are six Universities producing doctors in Sri Lanka (Colombo, Peradeniya, Kelaniya, Sri Jayawardhenapura, Ruhuna and Jaffna). Their output while supplemented by foreign qualified doctors is sufficient to meet the cadre needs in Sri Lanka. There is a post-graduate institute of medicine for specialization. The University of Peradeniya has a modern Dental School and there are various programs of Nursing.

The Minstry of Health is coordinating the Tsunami response in Sri Lanka and they provide a useful portal of information at

The response of the Minstry has been hampered by the severe damage taken by Hospitals and Dispensaries in the coastal zone and the damage to infrasturcture such as roads. In addition, many doctors have died and some others are bereaved as well. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, providing medical services is the immediate priority.

The health services are working in a crisis mode with extraordinary dedication from many. Four committees have been established to coordinate, transport supplies, human resources and manage communicable disease risk. They are requesting for specific drugs, equipment and other needs. We urge your support in assisting the Ministry.

Post-Tsunami Public Health Concerns

The immediate and longer-term priorities in terms of health concerns are:

  • Providing medical assistance to the hundreds of thousands of injured people. Some hospitals are overwhelmed by the influx of injured. Doctors and health workers are working around the clock to cope.
  • Ensuring that clean water in adequate quantity is available to all affected populations, together with adequate and sufficient sanitation facilities in temporary camps and settlements to reduce the risk of outbreaks of different diarrhoeal diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery.
  • Ensuring that survivors who have lost their homes do not live in conditions that are overcrowded, unhygienic and/or dangerous. Such conditions increase the risk of acute respiratory infections that can quickly develop into pneumonia and emerge as major causes of death - especially among children and old people, if left untreated. Across the region, essential medicines and trained health care workers must be easily accessible for all affected population.
  • Strengthening disease surveillance for epidemic-prone diseases including malaria and dengue fever. Flooding and stagnant water will create favorable conditions for the mosquito vector and heighten epidemic risk for individuals and communities in overcrowded conditions and temporary shelters.
WHO warns up to five million people without access to basic services in Southeast Asia

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Overview of Sri Lanka Health Sector

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