Thank you to the communities surrounding Riobamba and the student volunteers from Ohio State, Northwestern University, and Florida International University for all their hard work conducting MEDLIFE's first 2011-2012 winter clinic in Ecuador -- we're gearing up for three more clinics this January!


December 23, 2011 11:21 am

MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics: More From Cuzco!

Written by Lindsay Bigda

Jose Antonio, a 7 year old from the community of Sacaca, was one of the 751 patients that we saw last week during the MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in Cuzco. Jose suffers from congenital paralysis, but was brought by his parents to the Mobile Clinic for treatment of fever and throat pain. After our doctors treated him for these symptoms, MEDLIFE staff members also talked with Jose's parents about their child's paralysis -- no one had ever spoken with them before about the need for physical therapy. Jose's parents were shown how to do perform basic physical therapy exercises and how to rotate their child's position throughout the day to prevent infection, and then directed to other local resources in order to continue his treatment in the future. Our doctors believe that although it would be difficult for Jose to ever walk, it's not impossible.

55-1Among the many illnesses seen on Mobile Clinics, it's rare to see patients who are completely free of health problems. Yet, Yirema Quello -- a baby from Sacaca and a patient seen in Cuzco -- is healthy and strong. Yirema's mother, who lives in a community without a health center, brought Yirema to our Clinic for a regular check-up and to see how she was developing.

Yirema's mother told us that she tracked her birth and knew when she was about to deliver. That day, she prepared herself for an hour-long walk to the nearest hospital and was able to give birth safely. Yet, she said that many women are not as lucky as she was. Many women cannot wait and get to the hospital, and instead give birth in their homes. As a result, many babies die during childbirth.

Thanks to our Cuzco team for making it possible to treat Jose, Yirema, and our other 749 patients this past week!



54-1Last week, MEDLIFE completed its fourth Mobile Clinic visit to the region of Cuzco. Split into two groups, MEDLIFE staff members and student volunteers from University of California San Diego, University of Denver, University of Delaware, University of California Riverside, and Union College, were able to see a total of 751 patients.

In addition to bringing primary doctors, dentists, and obstetricians to rural communities surrounding Cuzco, MEDLIFE has also bolstered the educational component of our clinics by adding six new videos and accompanying brochures to our education station. While patients wait to see our medical professionals, they watch short videos about common health problems such as malnutrition, cervical cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure, among others.

54-2Late in the afternoon of our first day in Colquepata, as we were about to shut down the clinic, a woman arrived from the community of Tocra. She told us that she had heard about the Mobile Clinic through a doctor at the nearest health center (rural communities in the Sierra are served by health centers with varying levels of medical services). The health center near her community is staffed part-time with one nurse, one technician, and one administrative assistant, and offers only a basic level of care with no emergency, diagnostic, or lab services. Although it's difficult for her to leave her nine children and the various animals she raises to make a living, this patient decided to walk three hours in the rain to be seen for various ailments -- pain in her waist, pelvic pain and inflammation, and headache. Although the doctors were packing up, we were able to fit in one last patient. She was also able to meet with an obstetrician and receive a free Pap smear in order to screen for cervical cancer. MEDLIFE will return the results of her test through a local doctor in Cuzco within fifteen days.

54-3Thanks to the community members, student volunteers, and MEDLIFE staff members for bringing medical services to families and individuals in need in Cuzco province!


December 7, 2011 4:16 pm

The Hidden Side of Cuzco

Written by Tommy Flint

In 1911, the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham announced to the world that he had found the 'Lost City of the Incas' – the ruins of Machu Picchu, located near to the ancient Incan capital city of Cuzco. This year, over two million tourists will travel to Cuzco to celebrate the centenary of the 'discovery' of the ruins (of course, local inhabitants were familiar with the ruins before Bingham's arrival).

These tourists are greeted with an unparalleled range of cultural and historical sights. Even the physical structure of the city is in itself an architectural wonder: impressive Spanish colonial cathedrals and palaces are built on top of a foundation of 600-year old Incan stonework. In the central Plaza de Armas, locals clad in colorful traditional dress sell hand-made Alpaca wool scarves and sweaters. Travel agencies line cobblestone boulevards, offering adventure tourism galore including downhill biking, skydiving, bungee jumping, and hiking treks to Machu Picchu.

While each tourist chooses their own unique set of activities during their visit to Cuzco, many visitors share a similar experience of being accosted on the street by child beggars. The existence of child beggars at all hours of the day and night is just one single symptom of a greater problem plaguing the local residents of Cuzco. Despite the annual influx of millions of tourism dollars, more than half of all residents live in poverty (58.4% as of 2009). Even worse, the incidence of poverty shows no signs of abetting. From 2004-2007, while the national poverty rate in Peru fell by 9%, poverty in the Cuzco region increased by 4%.

Unsurprisingly, this poverty is most prevalent in areas not visited by tourists: the outskirts of the city, and the hundreds of surrounding villages that populate the pastoral Andean landscape. Many families in such villages survive on near-subsistence farming, reaping a meager crop of potatoes from the thin volcanic soil. Recent growth in urban employment within the city boundaries has not yet led to greater opportunity for the largely uneducated laborers of rural villages, and money from tourism does not trickle down to the villages. The region lacks sufficient healthcare infrastructure, with understaffed medical clinics offering sparse care to those with dire health concerns. An index of poverty statistics for the Cuzco region, as well as other regions of Peru, can be found at

Ask any of the 2 million visitors about their experience in Cuzco, and they'll likely give an overwhelmingly positive response. Sadly, the hundreds of thousands of Cuzqueños living in poverty would have a very different story to tell.

53-1Next week, MEDLIFE student volunteers will accompany local MEDLIFE staff and medical professionals to the Cuzco region to deliver primary care medical services to those in need. Each day the Mobile Clinic will travel to a rural village outside of Cuzco. Over the course of the week, our goal is to reach over 1,000 patients – individuals and families who possess few other options in finding solutions to their health concerns. MEDLIFE commits itself to becoming a positive agent of change in the Cuzco region by providing medical services to those who need it most.

We'll keep you updated on the progress of the Mobile Clinic with photo and text updates on this blog! Good luck to our student volunteers from UC San Diego, the University of Denver, the University of Delaware, and Union College who will be travelling to Cuzco this weekend!

Today, our Mobile Clinic group based in Riobamba, Ecuador visited the community of Colta -- a village inhabited by the Puruhá indigenous people. Colta is a small-scale milling industry where most people work in farming, growing potatoes, barley, wheat, beans, and quinoa (pictured below). Community members also raise cattle, sheep, poultry, and other types of wildlife.

Check out some photos from the community:
23-1 And from our Mobile Clinic:


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