Sri Lanka

Doctors of the World-USA successfully completes access to health care project in Sri Lanka

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Following the successful completion of its project to improve access to health care for tsunami affected populations in the southern district of Hambantota, Doctors of the World-USA (DOW-USA) closed its operations, formerly headquartered in Tangalle, Sri Lanka, effective September 15, 2006.

DOW-USA in Sri Lanka. Doctors of the World-USA began operations in Sri Lanka in July 2005, under a project developed in partnership with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Healthcare, Nutrition, and Uwa Wellassa Development (MOH) and funded in large part by private donors in the USA. DOW-USA activities focused on the rehabilitation and renovation of two rural hospitals serving tsunami-affected populations: Ranna Rural Hospital and Nakulugamuwa Hospital. DOW-USA also provided community-based health education and related services. All project components were done in accordance with a memorandum of understanding with the MOH. The renovation and upgrade of the hospitals - that are among the few health facilities in the nation that comply with Sri Lanka's new code on handicap accessibility - will improve the health services available to over 138,000 residents in the tsunami affected district of Hambantota. DOW-USA's community health initiative reached over 3,000 community members. DOW-USA completed the renovation of the hospitals at the end of August; plans for the equipping of the hospitals have been hampered, however, due to the current climate of unrest.

DOW-USA Mission, Policy and Action. DOW-USA is committed to ensuring sustainable access to health care for vulnerable populations. Our projects provide essential care and services, but, more importantly, focus resources on training and building the capacity of local counterparts to carry on the mission of health at the conclusion of our efforts. Services, training, and systems development are combined with appropriate advocacy to ensure that our efforts' impact is both broad-based and sustainable. DOW-USA operates in complete political neutrality. We never engage in political activity of any kind and conduct our programs in complete transparency.

Safety of humanitarian workers. While DOW-USA has completed it's mission in Sri Lanka, we are gravely concerned that organizations conducting health and development activities in partnership with the Sri Lankan people are being subject to harassment and targeted with false charges. Humanitarian organizations currently in Sri Lanka, where 17 Action Against Hunger (AAH) humanitarian aid workers were murdered in August, report that there exists a general climate of suspicion, accusations, restrictions, and surveillance of NGOs. While in Sri Lanka, DOW-USA was subject to repeated investigations and harassment, all in the absence of any charge or complaint. Currently, critical aid and development programs are in jeopardy, increasing the suffering of thousands of civilians, and aid workers fear for their lives. DOW-USA has joined with the international community in its call for an independent investigation into the murders of AAH staff and the guaranteed protection of all humanitarian workers and operations.

For more information on Doctors of the World-USA, contact Tom Dougherty at Thomas.Dougherty or 212 226 9890 ext. 223.