July 11, 2011 10:01 am

Addressing Malnutrition in Rural Ecuador

Written by JP Gorham

Our summer interns in Ecuador have been working to reduce malnutrition in Andean communities. JP Gorham, Dartmouth '11, can fill you in on what they've accomplished so far:

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After returning from my first MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in Cebadas, Ecuador three years ago, I was restless. MEDLIFE's commitment to sustainable health had inspired me, but I couldn't help but think that we could be doing more. I wanted to help the communities on the ground, but as a student, what could I do?

Before our internship in Riobamba began, Rachel and I spent time researching the problem of malnutrition in Ecuador. We found that in spite of a huge monetary commitment, the government's preventative approach to eradicating child malnutrition had largely failed to improve the situation. In a 2004 survey, 23% of Ecuadorian children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished. This number jumps to 40% in the Andean region, where we're living this summer. We wanted to help in the Ecuadorian governments efforts to bring those numbers down.

 

When MEDLIFE first started in 2005, our goal was to deliver medical care to those without access in Latin America. As we spent more time in the communities we visited on our Mobile Clinics, we learned more about the myriad problems constraining their residents' livelihoods and preventing them from leading healthy lives. We realized that delivery of healthcare services wasn't the only way that we could help individuals and families in need, so we decided to broaden our work to encompass community development projects. These projects' overall aim is to improve the health and living conditions of individual communities. Always working in collaboration with community leaders and residents, we have since built classrooms, bathrooms, and washrooms in rural and urban elementary schools, and stairways and retention walls for hillside villages. Funding for many of these projects now comes from the MEDLIFE Fund. All public donations and fundraising for MEDLIFE goes 100% to our community development projects.

Rachel Eggleston is a MEDLIFE summer intern in Ecuador. Here's her perspective on a community development project in Chimborazo:

1-1Today, fellow interns JP, Meredith, and I traveled to the rural village of Pull Manuel Laso, Chimborazo, deep in the Ecuadorian Andes mountain range, to check on the progress of a MEDLIFE-sponsored bathroom construction project. We woke up around 7 am and hopped in a taxi, which took us to the bus station. One bus and one government vehicle later, we arrived in Pull Manuel Laso. Francisca Paguay, the director of the community's school, greeted us immediately. Sra. Paguay led us down a trail to the bathroom project, which overlooks the vast agricultural and mountainous landscape typical of many communities in rural Chimborazo. When we arrived, several community members stopped their whitewashing to greet us. They were eager to show us what they had accomplished since Martha (Director of Operations, MEDLIFE Ecuador) last visited.

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