The Loreto Region
Located in northeast Peru, it is one of the poorest and most isolated regions in the country. It is also a beautiful, lush jungle in the Amazon River basin and home to an incredible abundance of life. Each summer for 1-2 months, a team of students is based in the region’s capital, Iquitos, the largest city in the world without road access. From there, they travel to small communities along the Amazon and Napo rivers, most of which have no running water, clean water source, or electricity. The villages can be upwards of six hours to the nearest health post with a trained “técnico” (similar to an EMT), and up to fourteen hours to the nearest health center with a doctor. As a result, minimally trained volunteer health “promotores” (community health workers) act as the first line health providers in each village.
Most of these villages have between 150-500 people who live in thatched roof huts and farm or fish for a living. A typical village has it’s own government structure, one primary school, and one minimally trained volunteer health “promotor”. Travel on the river is dangerous in the typical small canoes during the day and impossible during the night. Monsoon season causes the river to swell and flood many of the villages, leading them to live in elevated housing and have elevated pathways throughout villages. During the opposite end of the spectrum, dry season, the river shrinks and leads to the complete disappearance of many of the tributaries that are the lifelines to these villages (leading them to be completely inaccessible during a significant portion of the year). This unique environment provides incredible challenges to the healthcare network and is a major cause for the poor healthcare access that community members face daily.