Since the MFP Health Center For Victims of Torture opened its doors in November 2009, the medical team has delivered primary care to asylum seekers, written more than 150 affidavits, and given testimony in court. Our testimony and affidavits have played an important role in convincing immigration judges that our patients were torture victims in their home country, and are worthy of asylum in the United States.
Patients have been referred to our Health Center from 13 separate immigration lawyers, and from the law clinics at Georgetown University, American University, the University of Maryland and the Baltimore University Law Schools. The majority of our patients are from Africa (primarily Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon, and Democratic Republic of Congo), Burma, and from Central America. Our patients have been victims of an alarming variety of physical and emotional tortures prohibited by the U.N. Convention on Torture. We care for a large number of women who have been raped in prison, a common practice among Governments who practice torture with impunity, and others who have been victims of female genital mutilation.
There are 150 countries around the world that actively engage in Governmentally condoned torture. Many of the torture survivors are among the 50,000 applicants per year seeking asylum in the US, with a backlog of 350,000 cases to be decided. It is estimated that there are forty thousand asylum seekers in the greater DC area; they are seeking asylum based on their having been tortured in their home countries, and the probability that they will be persecuted or killed if they return home.
Torture survivors have a multitude of challenging medical and psychiatric problems resulting from the physical and mental abuse, unsanitary prison conditions, the hardship of prolonged refugee existence, and displacement from home, family and social support system. Over the past eighteen years, Medicine For Peace physicians and nurses have acquired considerable skills in cross-cultural medical care delivery and in caring for war trauma and torture victims.
The MFP Health Center team includes physicians, nurses, interpreters, medical students, teachers, drivers, and befrienders. The Health Center ‘s team consists of physicians and nurse practitioners (Pat Clausen, R.N., N.P., Lewis Marshall, M.D., Evelyn Tchoukochouko, M.D., Michael Viola, M.D.) administrator and translator (Samrawit Woldegiorgis), ESL teacher and befriender (Kathleen Crane-Viola) and drivers( Dmitry Papaloizos, Monika Viola), who provide pro bono medical services for torture survivors and asylum seekers in the greater Washington and Baltimore area. With our service partners, The Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (ASTT), of Washington and Baltimore, and The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC), we provide a wide range of medical, psychologica,l and social services for torture victims.