CMMB Partners to Serve Rural Communities in Ecuador
The coastal South American nation of Ecuador has overcome a litany of challenges since winning its independence in the 18th century. Today, it is a widely successful nation that provides comprehensive social services to many of its citizens. Bloomberg has ranked Ecuador’s health system as the 20th most efficient among advanced economies. The past twenty years has also seen poverty steadily decline.
Inequality on the Rise
Unfortunately, the increasing quality of life has not touched all corners of the nation. As overall poverty decreased, inequality started to rise along some startling boundaries. For instance, indigenous people are five times more likely to be living in poverty than whites. Female unemployment is twice as high as male unemployment. The improvements in the national health system also skipped over the hard to reach rural populations, with isolated villages rarely seeing a healthcare professional with any regularity.
NGOs in Ecuador have stepped in to provide support and care to overlooked populations. CMMB has sent 99 shipments of medicine and medical supplies to 37 partners working in Ecuador. One of our most trusted long-term partners in the country is Hospital San Juan de Dios, based in the historic city of Cuenca.
Partnering to Reach the Overlooked
CMMB began working with Hospital San Juan de Dios in 2012. The organization’s Medical Outreach Coordinator, Dr. Alfonso Apolo makes an annual trip to the US to procure specialty medical items. During this visit he coordinates with CMMB in order to receive an allocation of available products that he takes with him to Ecuador upon his return. His team then organizes the medicines and medical supplies and utilizes them in mission trips to extremely isolated rural communities.
2020 posed some unique challenges to the regular travel that Dr. Apolo undertakes. However, he and his staff discussed it and decided that they feared leaving their regular patients unattended during a pandemic when they would be in the greatest need of medical care. Therefore, after conferring with CMMB he came to the US to perform his regular procurement mission.
Hospital San Juan de Dios works in close coordination with the parishes of isolated communities across Ecuador. Through ongoing communication with the local priests, they continuously monitor the health needs and other developments in the villages. This provides the medical outreach team, composed of Dr. Apolo, a medical assistant, and three counselors with the up-to-date context to prepare for patient consultations.
For most patients, the visit by Hospital San Juan de Dios is the only time they have access to a doctor all year. The closest medical facility is often a many-hours journey by foot which they will only undertake in the case of emergencies. Unfortunately, this means that they suffer from tolerable yet harmful undiagnosed conditions such as malnutrition, parasites, digestive issues, diabetes, and hypertension. Gone untreated for consecutive years, these have a huge impact on a person’s day to day life and long-term health.
Through October and November 2020, Hospital San Juan de Dios’ team visited three communities across the country, which required long travel days and careful coordination. They saw HIV patients and prescribed antiretrovirals. They treated diabetes and heart disease and distributed basic items such as shampoo. They also had the chance to give reading glasses donated by Restoring Vision to people who had been unable to read for years due to untreated farsightedness.
CMMB’s Medical Donations Program is truly blessed to have such a wide network of compassionate, motivated implementing partners. We strive to continue to support care anywhere in the world where there is need.
*CMMB is grateful for the support of all our partners, whose medical donations allow us to reach isolated communities—like those served by Hospital San Juan de Dios—all over the world. Restoring Vision, mentioned in the story above, is a longtime partner of CMMB. Their continued dedication to our mission, in Ecuador and beyond, allows us to serve communities with the gift of sight.