Thursday, 28 June 2007

Gira Medica - Remote healthcare

Last week I went on a 3 day health care tour to remote schools in Jujuy Province. The CEGIM clinic in Tilcara, about 300km north of Salta, is run by two Alejandra and Fani, two young doctors. It is a polyclinic including visiting dentists, psychologists and speech therapists a few days a week.

A year ago they decided to start going once a month to visit the isolated schools in the mountains above Tilcara. They run 3 different circuits visiting each school (about 8 schools) 3 times a year. Previously these places would have been lucky to get one visit a year from a government sent health team. While the clinics are focused on the schools anyone can come to see the doctor.

The team consisted of Fani, Natalia, a psychologist, Lorena, a dentist, myself and two students from the USA who are volunteering at the clinic in Tilcara for 11 months working on health education projects.

We started out walking at 5am from Hualcalera, in the Quebra de Humahuaca, the big valley running north to the Bolivian border, where Tilcara sits.

After climbing up a river gully out of the quebra, we continued along a high altitude valley (over 3500m) to reach the first school Alonso by around 1030.

Many of the children walk 2-3 hours from their family's subsistence farms to get to school. They range between 6 and 13 and live and study at school for 20 days then return home for 10.

We spent the afternoon doing checkups on all the kids and then giving dental hygiene and self image, violence and sexual health workshops.

There are solar cells to power lights at night in the rooms. The wood required to heat hot water is in short supply so most go without bathing just washing hands and maybe face.

On the way to the next school we passed one of the farms the kids come from:

Yala de Maria Carmen is in a relatively more fertile and populated valley. The school runs in a similar fashion. Here you can see our supplies arriving.

They have a vege patch and glass house that supplies fresh vegetables to supplement the grains brought in by donkey on the walking trails and locally dried meat (you can see it hanging in the background of some of the photos). The kids learn about looking after the veges so they can plant similar patches when they go home.

Locals came down to visit the doctor in our classroom clinic into the evening.

It was a great and eye opening experience. There´s more photos of the country and it´s resourceful inhabitants, who are always smiling in conditions we barely dream of, in the photo gallery.

On Sunday back in Tilcara I was woken by the drums of this procession for the feast of St John the Baptist. Cool costumes!


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