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Afghan Refugees In Bay Area Getting Health Care From Clinic Founded During Vietnam Refugee Crisis

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A Santa Clara County health care clinic is tending to the health care needs of hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan, and many more are expected to arrive soon.

The TB and Refugee Clinic at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center's Lenzen Ave. campus in San Jose was first started to help Vietnamese refugees re-settle in America. Four decades later, the clinic is doing the same work for Afghans forced to flee their country last August.

"As a refugee, I'm really happy for this hospital," said Abdullah Mangal, who left Afghanistan when the Taliban took over.

Mangal, a former English teacher, was one of the tens of thousands of Afghans who evacuated from the crowded Kabul airport last August. His wife and daughter were already in the U.S. but he had to leave his parents and siblings behind.

"I'm trying to help them yeah, because there the situation is so bad," Mangal said.

The clinic is helping many others in the same situation, often in their own language from a diverse staff, some of whom also come from refugee backgrounds.

"I think it's welcoming for them. To see someone who can relate with them and speak the language so they can understand," said Negin Khosrotaj, a health care worker.

For many of the refugees, it's the first professional health care they've received in years.

"There are some children who have come in with extremely high lead levels that we had to intervene very quickly," said Dr. Harleen Sahni.

Sahni said some of the most common health care issues in refugees come from stress and anxiety.

"They complain of chronic pains, abdominal pains, they're not sleeping well. They cannot concentrate well, they cannot focus on things.  These things although mental are coming up as physical complaints in patients."

It's something the clinic and county health care system is well equipped to handle.

"We see the impact almost immediately on our patients lives," said clinic manager Nelda David.

"This program started during the Vietnam refugee crisis and fast forward several decades and here we are still responding," David said.

The clinic is expecting to serve about 800 refugees in Santa Clara County this year.


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