Health & Nutrition
When the first refugees from Sri Lanka arrived in India, they had already been displaced several times and had been living under difficult conditions. OfERR found that many refugees including infants suffered from malnutrition while pregnant mothers were anemic. The nutrition program was formally kicked off in 1990 to provide camp residents with an adequate intake of essential nutrients. In keeping with the theme of refugees being resource persons, nutrition powder was prepared by beneficiaries on rotation, using local grains, for children aged 2-5 and pregnant or lactating mothers. Elderly refugees were provided a monthly income for the preparation and sale of these nutritious meals in the camps, thereby giving them an income to make them self-sufficient. OfERR also trained health workers from the camps through the Medical Institute of Tamils, a welfare organization devoted to alleviating the suffering of Tamil refugees worldwide, to monitor the well-being of families.
In 2006, funding for the nutrition program ran out, following which OfERR appealed to the Tamil Nadu government who responded positively and extended the central government’s mid-day meal scheme – Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) – to refugees as well. Currently, in addition to this scheme which supports 4,248 refugee children in 98 camps, Spirulina tanks, kitchen gardens, community canteens and vegetable petty shops have been set up in camps and are sustained by residents. However, there is a requirement for a nutrition program for vulnerable refugees such as elderly childless couples, handicapped people and children with nutritional deficiencies who need to be kept healthy until they are ready to return to their homes in Sri Lanka. Currently, OfERR has identified around 1,000 such refugees who would benefit from a nutrition plan targeting them and welcomes your contribution to make this a reality.
OfERR also focuses on preventive health care by training and organizing health teams to look after their respective camps to ensure that health problems are identified and treated before they become debilitating. OfERR health workers have mobilized governmental health care systems and organized 684 medical/screening camps in 107 camps (many refugees attend the screening camps more than once). These medical camps have benefited 46,050 refugees with early identification of diseases and receiving easy access to screening camps. The health workers conduct awareness drives on HIV, blood donation, diet and exercise, dengue awareness and so on. Volunteers from refugee camps regularly donate blood when epidemics break out and step in to conduct cleaning drives, spray insecticide and take care of their immediate surroundings. Additionally, OfERR conducts screenings for diabetes, kidney problems, eye and dental issues, apart from looking for emergency signs of diseases that are referred to the Public Health Inspector (PHI).
While the Tamil Nadu government generously covers the cost of treatment for critical illnesses, OfERR undertakes the expenses of preventive screening, medical investigations (such as ultrasounds, blood sugar tests, thyroid problems) and antibiotics. Further, speech-impaired children and those with learning disabilities require assistance in the form of hearing aids, speech therapy and special education until they are moved to regular schools. Currently, over 20 children are being given special education in schools in Tamil Nadu through OfERR. We invite support from medical professionals including general physicians, dentists and ophthalmologists to volunteer with our refugees. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.