In Bolivia, rivers and mountains can pose obstacles to healthcare that are almost as daunting as poverty. Program Officer José Henríquez recently travelled to Bolivia to see how Global Links can support government efforts to overcome these challenges and improve healthcare in some municipalities far from city services. Shown here is the approach to Cobija, in the northern province of Pando.
José visited health centers and hospitals in five municipalities. The health center in El Sena, in Pando, is minimally equipped.
In this humid atmosphere, metal rusts quickly, so each furnishing must be selected based on utility, and durability. In addition, rusty areas provide breeding grounds for bacteria. New equipment from Global Links would make a big difference.
The challenges posed by the landscape are immediately apparent. Patients in El Sena who need advanced care, such as a c-section, must cross the Beni River and travel by unpaved road to the hospital in Riberalta – a trip that takes four hours. “The current is very strong,” José said of the crossing. “And the ferrymen very skillful.” But the ferry itself is old and the trip across can be treacherous.
The Maternal Infant Hospital at Riberalta has many needs, often for very basic items such as mattresses and linens. Global Links includes these basic items in most shipments because bedding shortages are common in the hospitals we work with.
The hospital only has one nebulizer, or breathing treatment machine – not enough for a community where asthma is prevalent. Parents must often wait to use the machine while their child struggles to breathe. Global Links collects nebulizers from the general public because they are essential – and in short supply – in the countries where we work; we provide nebulizer supplies and filters to help hospitals maintain their equipment.
Assessment trips like this one help Global Links understand recipients’ needs, and avoid sending materials that are not useful. Useless items, or furnishings that have limited life, burden the hospitals we are trying to help. For example, in Riberalta, disposing of waste is very difficult. This is the waste disposal area for the Maternal Infant hospital.
The hospitals José visited must have their donations brought in by truck from La Paz, an arduous journey. In the three shipments planned for 2011, Global Links will provide essential medical equipment to the areas outlined in red. Since delivery is difficult, every item must have maximum utility.
At Hospital Dr. Roberto Galindo Terán, in Cobija, José saw previous donations from Global Links in use. This supply cart is being used to securely store critical medicines and supplies in the emergency room. In a testament to Global Links’ dedicated volunteers, hospital staff were still commenting on how carefully packed everything in the donation was – packed well enough to withstand the rigorous trip from Pittsburgh to Pando.
Global Links donations are always chosen based on the expressed needs of recipients, but when delivery itself is so difficult, this policy has special relevance. Working through our partnerships with PAHO/WHO and with local agencies, we are meeting these challenges and helping to raise the level of healthcare in these communities.