Originally printed in The Guardian
May 12, 2009
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Yesterday a shell was reported to have hit a temporary hospital in the so-called no-fire zone in north-east Sri Lanka, killing 47 people. Vany Kumar, 25, works at the temporary medical facility in Mullaivaikal East primary school, which is caught between government troops and the last remnants of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). Here, in a telephone interview with the Guardian, she describes life on the front line.
This is really a disaster. I don’t know really how to explain it. At the moment, it is like hell.
Most of the time we live in the shelter. There is not enough medical equipment, so it is really difficult to treat people. Food is a problem as well. There is no food at all here, there are no vegetables and no rice, they just eat whatever they can find, that’s all. The hospital is located in a primary school so there is only one room. We just try our best to achieve what we can.
I was in the office working [when the shell hit]. It was definitely a shell, there is no doubt about that. I was about 20 metres away, and I was sure that it landed inside the hospital, so I went to the shelter. I got the news from the doctors that there were people injured and dead. There was constant shelling so I couldn’t leave the shelter.
For us, shell bombing is just a normal thing now. It is like an everyday routine. We have reached a point where it’s like death is not a problem at all. No one has any feeling here now, it’s like everyone says, “Whatever happens, it happens.” That’s it, that’s the mentality every single person has here.
The most terrible thing that I have seen was when a mother had a bullet go through her breast and she was dead and the baby was still on the other side of the breast and the baby was drinking her milk, and that really affected me. I was at that place where it happened.
There is just too much to take. Children have lost parents, parents have lost children, it’s just a common thing now.[The shelling] is definitely coming from the government side, that can be sure, because it is only a small area on the LTTE side and from the sound and from the distance I can surely say it is from the government side.
I don’t care about the government, I don’t care about the LTTE, my concern is the civilians because through all these problems they are the people affected.
The government or the LTTE, they have got to do something, and if not, I can’t imagine what will happen next. Both parties have got to have a ceasefire. I think the international [community] has to either come into the country or get both parties to stop the fighting and start thinking about the civilians living here. Every single person living here asks why the international [community] is not doing anything.
I really want to come to the UK but I don’t know. I’m talking to you now, but maybe tomorrow I’ll be dead.