Tuesday, August 16, 2005


In 1990 the late Dr. Jonathan Mann assembled other volunteer physicians and founded Doctors of the World (Now Doctors of the World-USA - DOW). Not just a non-profit organization concerned with health issues, DOW is "an international health and human rights organization working where health is diminished or endangered by violations of human rights and civil liberties."

With the help of its local partners around the world, DOW reaches out to the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in the communities in which they serve. They address pressing health issues and build long-term solutions.

The areas of health issues upon which this organization focuses are:

- Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS

- Orphans and Vulnerable Children

- Women's health

- Survivors of gross human rights abuses

DOW is working on TB and HIV in four regions of the world. In the 14 years since its inception, this organization has developed expertise in strengthening health systems to combat these diseases, which they characterize as "the twin pandemics." And in approaching these diseases, DOW utilizing a rights-based approach explained above.

Women's health is a critical and neglected issue in all of the regions of the world where DOW works. With a commitment to lowering maternal and infant mortality rates, expanding access to health care for women, providing education and services addressing reproductive health, and empowering women to advocate for appropriate health services for themselves and their communities, DOW makes this one of its major focuses.

Regarding Children with Special Needs, DOW's web site states:
"Among the excluded populations served by DOW projects, children remain the most vulnerable and in need of assistance. Doctors of the World-USA is working to restore and protect the basic rights of particularly vulnerable groups of children with special needs: children with disabilities, street children, and children in institutions or separated from their families."

DOW's longest running project (the Human Rights Clinic) because it has always felt the call to addresses the needs of survivors of torture and other gross human rights abuses. In this project, volunteer health care providers aid these survivors of torture within the asylum system by providing clinical examinations and testifying on their behalf. This effort was recently expanded to serve survivors of human trafficking.

Conducting its own projects in over 25 countries, DOW also works within a network of 12 M├ędecins du Monde/Doctors of the World delegations that operate in over 90 countries.

DOW says that it has a Unique Commitment to Health and Human Rights in that its Mission is stating as supporting:

- The right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health…

- The right to equality before the law…

- The right to be free from torture…

Mobilizing a network of health care providers to promote and protect basic human rights and civil liberties around the world, DOW works in areas where health is diminished or endangered because those rights and civil liberties are denied.

In these areas, DOW volunteers and their affiliates provide much needed health care services and train local community members how to continue the health care indefinitely into the future.

In addition to these services DOW advocates for the communities that they serve.

Doctors of the World is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization and receives from many Major supporters including: USAID, the Open Society Institute, MAC Aids Foundation, Gruner+Jahr USA, AOL/Time Warner and UNICEF.

The support by these contributors is well founded, as in 2002 DOW volunteer physicians donated over 1,500 hours in health service, over 1,100 of were abroad.

Doctors of the World is autonomous and nonsectarian. It is part of an international network, comprising twelve independent volunteer health services delegations worldwide which strive to provide health care to the world's most vulnerable populations. It is a U.S. affiliate of M├ędecins du Monde and is a member in good standing of Interaction, the major umbrella group for relief and development organizations in the United States.

In keeping with its theme of "Making Health a Human Right," Doctors of the World participated major conference on "Lessons Learned From Rights Based Approaches to Health" at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in June of 2005. There, DOW representatives spoke on lessons learned from DOW's children's health projects and on the health provider's role in documenting evidence of torture.

DOW has projects in India, Iran, Kenya, Kosovo, Mexico, Nepal, Romania, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam, so there is plenty that could be highlighted in this article. But I am going to take just a few lines to discuss DOW's efforts in Kenya.

In Kenya, DOW focuses on HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care, and Treatment and on TB

With approximately 60% of the more than 40 million people globally living residing in sub-Saharan Africa, that places an inordinate number of HIV/AIDS victims living where health systems are weak and access to treatment is minimal.

DOW is working with the Kapenguria District Hospital in the West Pokot District of Kenya to expand and enhance HIV prevention, care, and treatment in the hospital, health centers, and surrounding communities. The West Pokot District is an underserved area of Kenya with a very high rate of HIV infection.

DOW made a Needs Assessment in the area and developed partnerships with local stakeholders and other international institutions working in the area and created a multi-year program plan. After that, they established a field presence at the Kapenguria District Hospital.

A HIV resource database was developed by DOW to share with local partners Kenyan partners in both the public health and NGO sectors.

Priority areas were developed for provider within the context of a whole-site training program at Kapenguria District Hospital. Therein, they focused on an overview of HIV/AIDS issues such as intake, confidentiality, patient diet, preventing and treating opportunistic infections, and counseling.

DOW intends to build the capacity of the district hospital and health centers so as to provide HIV treatment and support services. While doing this, DOW also intends to build the local capacity to provide community-based HIV education for those at risk and provide support to those who are HIV-positive.

There is a lot more to learn about Doctors Of The World, and it can be found at:

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