Saturday, February 7, 2009

Indigenous People's Health Clinic, Quibdo, Colombia

These little boys greeted us as we arrived and were more than happy to stand still for a snapshot. The blue stains on their faces are from a berry that grows in the forest used for face painting. The adults have elaborate and intricate designs sometimes—the stain lasts about a week.

Laughing children were our first welcome to a Health Clinic in Quibdo, Colombia. These children and their parents, indigenous peoples, come here from the depths of the Colombian forest to receive health care. Some arrive by boat, some by foot, and its often a two-week journey.

I had a chance to visit this unique clinic supported by Catholic Relief Services recently and found out much about the health care challenges these courageous, gentle people face because of their living environment. One of the biggest health problems is anemia due to a diet of two main food staples, maize and plantains.

The water they drink is usually contaminated with microbes and causes stomach problems and the bloated bellies of many of the children was an indication of this problem. The families arrive here hoping to get care for a number of illnesses, diarrhea, pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria and leshmaniasis.

I also met two dedicated workers who for the last fifteen years have helped guide sick people from the jungle to the doors of this clinic. And with only four full time employees for an estimated 5,000 people they are very busy indeed. Without the help of Catholic Relief Services and its partners disease and poverty would be the only story to tell about these people. But here, they’ll also get training in hygiene and agriculture to improve their lives when they return to the forests they love.

When I left I thought how the smiles and optimism of the children of the forest was a tribute to the hope CRS brings to the many places we serve.

© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved

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