"The soldiers dragged out a pregnant woman and slit open her belly. A witness who was personally tortured for his political activism in Congo is more haunted by that image than his own pain." It's not just a Cambodian issue, it's all victim of war trauma.
The 300,000 survivors of the Cambodian holocaust and their families living in the United States bear the physical and psychological scars of war, torture, and genocide. They also sustain the economic burdens of a community that has lost at least one-third of its people; inlcuding over 90% of its doctors, lawyers, teachers, civil servants and clergy. There is no prehistoric precedent for a community rebuilding after such a massive loss of its citizenry and resources.
The National Cambodian American Health Initiative (NCAHI) is a membership organization of Cambodian leaders founded in October, 2003. NCAHI's mission is to improve and preserve the health of survivors of the Cambodian holocaust and their families through research, health education, model programs and advocacy. Members come from 16 states and service area, representing more than 75% of Cambodians living in the United States.
For the past 7 years, the National Cambodian American Health Initiative has been gathering information about the health of survivors of the Cambodian holocaust and their children in 2005 declared a “health emergency” in the Cambodian community. Science tells us that extreme trauma causes long term chronic disease and early death in survivors and children of survivors. We know this is happening in the Cambodian community because we have statistic that show that:
1. Cambodians have diabetes at a rate twice that of the general population and we are 6 times more likely to die of this sickness than others.
2. Cambodian dies of stroke twice as often as the general population.
3. Cambodian have liver cancer at a rate 8 time that of others.
In addition to having more chronic illness it is not surprising that Cambodians have a rate of disability of 30% for adults over 18 and 30% of our families are living in poverty. Resources for building a new home after genocide are few. More than 95% of educated Cambodians were exterminated leaving few human resources for leadership and health care. This is a reality that is not clearly understood by our community or by our government.
As new Americans, Cambodian want to work and contribute to our new home but we face the consequences of trauma and chronic disease in a real and practical manner. Based on 5 years of talking with the community across the country, NCAHI developed a strategic plan for health that calls for the following:
1. Raise awareness of the Cambodian holocaust and the health problems of survivors.
2. Mobilize the Cambodian community to participate in their own health care.
3. Increase the capacity of Cambodian organizations to deliver healthcare to their own communities.
4. Workforce development in the area of health care.
5. Development of a national Cambodian American Medical Home Program (CAMHP)
6. Assuring that health services are available on a long term basis.
We want to take this information and plan to the Congress of the United States. We invite you to join us by signing the petition. If you would like more information please request a copy of Health Emergency in the Cambodian Community in the United States and Strategic Plan for Health for the Cambodian Community in the United States (2007-2012 by sending an email to MScully@Khmerhealthadvocates.org .
With your help, we can improve the health of Cambodian survivors while lowering the cost of essential health care through a community based approach to health.
Theanvy Kuoch, MA, LPC
Khmer Health Advocates, Inc.
Chair of National Cambodian American Health Initiative
1125 New Britain Avenue, Suite 202
West Hartford, CT 06110
Tel: (860) 561-3345 Fax: (860) 561-3538
Everyday Cambodian Americans are dying from preventable and treatable chronic diseases that are directly linked to experiences of war, torture and genocide. They are dying of the effects of genocide three decades after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge Regime that took the lives of over 2 million people. Since arriving in the United States, surivors have made new homes and raised children. They work hard, often at low paying jobs and support families back in Cambodia. Many members of the community are today living the American dream, but many, many more are still struggling to survive. We know that 30% of our survivors are disabled and living below the poverty level. We also know that survivors are dying of diabetes six times more often than the general population and of stroke twice as often as others.
Science tells us bodies and minds that experienced traumatic stress are vulnerable to disease. Emerging research strongly suggests that this vulnerability is passed onto the children of survivors. In 2005, the leadership of the National Cambodian American Health Initiative (NCAHI) declared a “health emergency” due to the escalating rates of chronic disease, the high rate of mortality and the lack of human resources to assure that Cambodians have access to proper care. As you may know, 95% of Cambodia’s educated population was exterminated during the Khmer Rouge period leaving few Khmer speaking health care providers to care for the community.
We are writing to you to ask that you support a Congressional hearing on the health of Cambodian survivors of war, torture and genocide who are living in the United States. We ask that this hearing be held during the week of April 17th which is the anniversary of the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge. Community leaders, survivors and experts in Cambodian health are willing to come to Washington to tell our stories and to launch a strategic plan for health that will not only save lives, but save important health care dollars.
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