Washington, D.C. (March 1, 2012) – As part of the Hindu American Physicians in Seva (HAPiS) program, two physicians from the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) recently visited Bhutanese refugee camps in the city of Damak, Nepal. The camps, managed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), house Hindu and Buddhist refugees of Nepali descent, who were stripped of their citizenship and forced to leave Bhutan in the 1990s under the “One Nation, One People” policy.
HAF launched the Hindu Americans Physicians in Seva (HAPiS) program almost one year ago in order to serve the medical needs of under-served communities around the world. During this trip, Mihir Meghani, M.D., HAF Board Member and Co-Founder, and Arvind Chandrakantan, M.D., HAF Executive Council Member, toured several UNHCR camps in order to both assess the current level of care administered to the refugees and explore areas of need. They also met with UNHCR officials, the United States embassy in Kathmandu, and the Asian Medical Doctors Association (AMDA)-Nepal.
“The medical care provided to the refugees in the UNHCR camps is mostly very good,” said Dr. Chandrakantan. “Where there are gaps in service, our hope is to assist by providing medical volunteers from the U.S.”
Drs. Meghani and Chandrakantan have enumerated their findings in a report, which they expect to release shortly, along with an appeal for additional medical personnel.
“It makes my heart very happy that doctors are coming from the United States to help the refugees,” said Dr. Bhampa Rai, Chairman of the Bhutanese Health Association. “The refugees are my family.”
More than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees (mostly Hindu) have been living in camps in Nepal since their forced expulsion from Bhutan nearly 20 years ago. The Bhutanese government has refused to allow the refugees to return, but in recent years, a number of countries have agreed to resettle them, including the United States. Approximately 35,000 are currently living in the U.S. HAF has been monitoring the plight of the Bhutanese refugees for the past several years and has documented it in its annual human rights report.
“The Bhutanese Hindus are a unique and proud people with a rich culture,” added Dr. Meghani. “They have suffered immensely over the past 20 years and need the support of the Hindu community in the U.S.