Embodies the Wisdom and Compassion for which Tibet is Renown
Tibet is a repository of sacred knowledge, snowy Himalayan peaks, and exceptionally joyful people. Since the Chinese occupation in 1959, there has been a health crisis that has left half of the children in Tibet malnourished, threatening the future of the Tibetan people. Dr. Nancy Harris traveled to Tibet more than a decade ago and found fourteen-year-old children so stunted in growth they looked like eight-year-olds.The World Health Community assumed that this stunting was a result of the high altitude, but Dr. Harris found it wasn’t so. She measured 2,500 children in rural villages and eventually published a groundbreaking study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which documented that hunger was the cause of these developmental deficits, not altitude.
Under the guidance of Dr. Harris, the Terma Foundation has operated remarkably innovative, culturally adapted public health programs that interconnect the areas of child survival, maternal health, nutrition and infectious disease. Direct beneficiaries of these programs are Tibet’s most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly. They are the ones most endangered by tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrhea, micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition.
Terma’s approach is both preventive and curative, employing low-cost solutions while remaining respectful of Tibetan worldview and tradition. The combination of escalating tuberculosis, malnutrition and lack of sanitation is creating the conditions for widespread mortality. Lasting partnerships enabling villagers to act as their own agents of change has been Terma’s public health strategy.
The Foundation has found a unique solution to Rickets, a severe vitamin D deficiency that results in deformities of the entire skeleton and cartilage, as well as decreases immunity and increases vulnerability to tuberculosis. Since vitamin D is not available in the local diet, they are encouraging sun bathing for infants and children as an effective way to derive this valuable vitamin. The Foundation is also recording the benefits of traditional Tibetan doctors using pediatric herbal recipes to prevent life-threatening childhood problems.
Terma has identified an indigenous native food called droma that is high in iron and vegetable protein. By subsidizing supplies of droma, and implementing a nutritional education program, women and children at nutritional risk are being helped. At long last, Terma is witnessing the signs of success: the darkening of depigmented, orange-colored hair and reductions in stunted children. The cultivation of droma is underway to provide a sustainable supply as well as generate a source of income for the community.
Local doctors are instructed to recognize and manage the serious, preventable diseases they routinely encounter. To improve maternal and infant survival, Terma focuses on the most likely cause of death for unattended women in labor–anemia, pelvic deformities from childhood rickets, and subsequent hemorrhaging. The most cost-effective method to alter this cycle is the use of multivitamins as a direct intervention to improve birth outcomes. Also by encouraging women to breastfeed, Terma hopes to cut the current infant mortality rate in half.
With assistance from Terma, the Tibetan people are living healthier lives and, village by village, tightening the linkage of the global community. All of this ensures that the Tibetan culture and values of kindness will continue to prevail. To learn more or make a donation, call (650) 712-8413 or visit http://www.terma.org/.