Friday 29 April 2016

A new chapter starts for our cooperation with the community of Bolívar, Andes Mountains, sustaining the right to health

Carlos is a teacher in the school San Francisco de Asís. He comes from another region in Peru, because there aren’t any native teachers in Bolívar. He chose this way of life, not only for a professional purpose. He chose to serve the children in the more distant suburbs.

One day he started feeling abdominal twinges, which increased of intensity very quickly. He was taken to the clinic in Bolívar (here they called the hospital), where he was administered a painkiller. The analysis could not be done because the reagents had expired, but “do not worry, rest for a while here, it will soon pass” they said. The next day Carlos was feeling much worse, the pain was excruciating. At this point the parish priest, Father Emeterio, decided to load him in the car and take him down from 3,200 meters of altitude of Bolívar to the nearest hospital, a real one. Five hours of stone and mud winding road risking of falling down at every bend, then three more hours to climb the pass and get to town. On arrival at the hospital the doctors immediately realized that it was a fulminating appendicitis: a few more hours and it would have been too late. After a few weeks, Carlos was back in Bolívar, fully active.

Like him, men, women and children living in Bolívar continually risk their lives to diseases that could be treated in other contexts, but not here. One in five children live less than five years; maternal mortality from complications of childbirth is very high, infections of the digestive system are very frequent and there is a widespread of child malnutrition.

We came across these health problems from the very beginning of our work with the school San Francisco. An initial analysis of the area’s living conditions revealed that 95% of the population have no drinking water in the households and more than half – those who live in the mountains outside the town – has no access to drinking water at all. Children grow up drinking from the same streams where animals bathe, feed, and leave their droppings. For those living isolated on the mountains, to treat an infection means that they have to walk even eight or ten hours to get to Bolívar and then be told that all is well.

The parish has long understood that this was a very serious problem for the people. The villages had been for long exploited by smugglers of medicinal products that – in the absence of a pharmaceutical service – went around selling pills and medicines at loan shark prices. But luckily father Emeterio is not the type of person intimidated by the mafias, so he has gradually set up a network of local parochial pharmacies in every village. The same medicines are sold today at a tenth of the price charged by the smugglers who, after multiple attempts to sabotage the local pharmacies, finally had to give up.

This network of health protection, however, is still not sufficient and should be strengthened. Together we have studied how and where to start, given the large amount of work ahead of us. At the end of 2015 we started working on three aspects: improving basic health training of the staff responsible of about 60 local pharmacies; intensifying regular medical campaigns for Analysis and Prevention on the population, with medical teams from the major Peruvian city hospitals; carrying out a thorough study on the most common diseases and major health risks of the local population.

With this first steps, by the end of 2016, we would like to have a comprehensive survey of the needs of the population in the healthcare sector, in order to achieve, starting from next year, a project aimed at reducing the risks of mortality and chronic disease in the territory of Bolívar.

“When there is health there is everything,” says an old saying. It is impressive to see how, here, even without any guarantee of health, life flourishes; joy pushes its way into the people’s hearts. It is equally impressive to see how one of the fundamental rights of the person is a right for some but a luxury for others. We would like to change that and rather make it a right for all, the right to freedom, the right to life. This is why we put all our energy, hoping on the contribution and participation of all!

Francesco Tortorella
(from AMU News n. 1/2016)

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  1. Claudio Conforti
    Posted May 30 , 2016 at 09:44 AM | Permalink

    Come già fatto a suo tempo per la scuola San Francisco de Asis, con mia madre, che ora mi ha lasciato, continuo a sentirmi vicino alla comunità di Bolivar, e darò il mio contributo per il diritto alla salute, questa volta quella del corpo, dono di Dio, come a quella dello spirito, per l’istruzione e la dignità della persona.
    A presto
    Claudio Conforti

  2. Marta Minghetti
    Posted May 30 , 2016 at 21:36 PM | Permalink

    Grazie Claudio di essere con noi anche in questo nuovo progetto. Andare avanti insieme ci dà forza, speranza, nuovo entusiasmo. Grazie!

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