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Dr M. Mahendran, Regional Director of Health Services, Vavuniya, Sri Lanka

Five years ago, I was responsible for the health of 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who took shelter in camps set-up at Vavuniya after Sri Lanka’s civil conflict. Families had lost everything: homes, property, loved ones. But I remember that every mum had kept hold of her children’s immunisation cards (child health development card). Mothers showed us the card and said “This is our future.” The lives of their children were the most precious things on earth.

When we screened the health of under-fives in the camps, we found very few had missed vaccinations – despite families moving from field hospital to field hospital during the final stages of the conflict. Among the thousands of IDPs that came into the camps, there was no outbreak of measles, rubella, cholera or dysentery. This spoke volumes for Sri Lanka’s immunisation programme and our health system.


Photos: Gavi 2013/Sanjit Das


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