For almost thirty years Third World Health Aid has been fighting for the right to health and sovereign development in Palestine, the Philippines, Cuba, the DR Congo, Laos and other parts of the world.
The operation has evolved from sending out health worker missions to supporting local partners, but we stay true to the pioneers’ principles and ideals.
Third World Health Aid (TWHA) was founded at the end of the 1980’s. Doctors affiliated with the Medicine for the People movement went to Lebanon to work in the Palestinian refugee camps. On their return, they founded TWHA with a number of colleagues. At the time, they had a double objective. First, they wished to build up solidarity with organizations in the South organizing health care at the people’s service. Also, they wanted to give Belgian health workers the opportunity to make a tangible contribution to the cause of people living in the third world.
From the very beginning, the fate of the Palestinian people has always been high on our agenda. And our cooperation with Philippine health organizations proved to be vital in the early stages of TWHA’s development. THWA set up community-based health programs throughout the entire archipelago, training simple farmers and local men and women to be skilled barefoot doctors, capable of treating the most common diseases themselves. Thanks to the close cooperation with social movements in their country, these programs help people demand their right to health from the government.
The 1990’s saw expanding bonds of solidarity with our Cuban partners. In the capital, Havana, for example, we have been supporting the setup of public health services close to the local population.
TWHA set up activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well. We have helped local organizations implement basic health care programs in poor neighborhoods of Kinshasa, with other cities following suit later.
Throughout the years, we have been shifting our focus towards building capacity of local partners. Health workers missions have been downgraded considerably. However, we have sent out health workers on very specific occasions. TWHA sent a team of four doctors to Baghdad in response to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. And when Israel launched its brutal attack on Gaza at the end of 2008, TWHA sent a neurosurgeon on a mission there.
In the beginning of the 2000’s we became involved in a worldwide movement for the right to health. We were among the founders of the People's Health Movement, a network of health organizations and activists in which we are still very active.
Since 2009 we have been developing an operation in Laos. We locally support health work among deprived indigenous women.
Apart from our focus countries, we also support a number of smaller projects in other countries. This is done upon request of support committees or in response to emergency situations.
In Belgium, we support the development of a broad movement for the right to health. To further this support, we cooperate with solidarity movements such as intal and ICS (Initiatief Cuba Socialista) among others. Our campaigns allow us to combine our efforts in changing Belgian and European policy in favor of the right to health in the South. We also continue our work with health workers and students, offering them internships and involving them in volunteer work.