Providing life-saving healthcare for Sri Lankan refugees in India: A story of two sisters

Act for Peace’s Regional Return and Reintegration Advisor, Florina Xavier, recently returned from visiting Thumbulahalli refugee camp in India. When she was over there, she met two sisters, both recipients of our local partner’s Health project, resourced by our supporters and the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Our local partner, the Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR), has been supporting Sri Lankan refugees in camps for over three decades.

Forced to flee the Sri Lankan civil war, around 58,000 refugees live in these camps, some of who were born there. While many hope to return to Sri Lanka one day, for others, India has become their home.

Two of these refugees are sisters named Srinidhi* and Mahira*, and their story is a special one because after all these years, they have never lived apart.

Sisters Srinidhi and Mahira live in Thumbulahalli refugee camp in India and have never lived apart. Florina Xavier / Act for Peace

Both are widows who lost their husbands in India. One has a daughter who is married and lives in the same camp. While they don’t experience the legal privileges of being citizens of India, they get by with the government pension and doing odd jobs around the camp.

They like being independent, but when it comes to their health, travelling outside the camp to the nearest hospital was too difficult, particularly given Mahira’s health condition.

Thankfully, with your support and the help of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), our local partner sends health workers into the camps to conduct home visits, where they check blood pressure and diabetics, and provide medicine to those who need it.

Srinidhi told Florina, “Can’t you see my sister? She can’t even walk, how is she going to go to the hospital?  That’s why we want the hospital to come to us, the health workers to come to us. Even though nobody visits me, she comes and sees me regularly.”

Mahira receives vital healthcare support from our local partner in India. Florina Xavier / Act for Peace
Srinidhi and Mahira sit outside their home with Florina, Regional Return and Reintegration Advisor at Act for Peace. Florina Xavier / Act for Peace

These sisters take care of each other and are happy that they are not a burden on anyone. They do not want to return to Sri Lanka since they do not see a future there – they have each other, and that is enough.

Florina says, “It was so nice to meet those two women.  In a way, it was reassuring that human beings can be satisfied despite being in such difficult situations.  They were independent. They were happy with the smaller things that they have in life, and they have each other.”

A place to belong means different things for different people, but for many of us, it involves being safe and healthy, with the people we love.

Thank you, to all our supporters, and the Australian Government, for backing this life-changing project which is helping refugees like Srinidhi* and Mahira* live in safety, with dignity.

You can help refugees like Srinidhi and Mahira in Sri Lanka by becoming an Act for Peace partner.

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