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INDIA: Strengthening Health Services Through Volunteers

Fleeing persecution and often torture, thousands of Tibetan refugees have settled in Dharamsala, India, the home of the current Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Human rights violations against Tibetans following the annexation of Tibet by China are well documented; the possession of the Tibetan flag or a photograph can result in imprisonment. The refugees have found relative safety and liberty in India, but like most refugee populations, are vulnerable to health issues such as tuberculosis, dysentery, typhoid fever and malaria. In Dharamsala, the refugee population is dependent on the Delek Hospital, a volunteer-run facility.  
 
Intervening where health is diminished by human rights abuse
The Chief Administrator of the Delek Hospital was the first to bring the health situation of Tibetans in India to the attention of HealthRight International.  As part of our commitment to intervening where health is diminished or endangered by human rights violations, HealthRight has deployed volunteer physicians to the Delek Hospital since 2002. The hospital lacked the requisite systems – and resident health providers lacked the appropriate technical skills – to effectively control tuberculosis and the gastro-enteric, diarrhoael, skin, and respiratory diseases prevalent in refugee communities. Our volunteers tackle each of these issues by providing clinical care, mentoring health providers, and working to improve tools and systems for care. 
 
Developing systems and building capacity
While volunteer physicians’ health care skills are urgently needed by the local refugee and exiled community, their expertise is equally vital to the hospital administration and health care workers. HealthRight volunteer physicians work closely with Delek Hospital employees and clinicians to strengthen key areas of care provision and management. Our physicians also provide technical and advocacy training to health providers to better diagnose, treat and prevent various illnesses.