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AmeriCares Partnerships Help Mexicans in Need

  • October 5, 2007
 A child at the Milpillas landfill, where she struggles daily with her family to salvage enough to sell.
PHOTO: Hector Emmanuelli

In central Mexico, nearly an hour’s drive up dusty, unpaved roads, outside the bustling urban streets of San Luis Potosí is a region that is home to some of Mexico’s most underserved families.  Most people living among this population are completely isolated from society, lacking transportation to reach the city, meaning that they are left without access to basic medicine, heath care and safe drinking water.

One small rural community in this region is the village of Milpillas, where 150 families spend their days digging through knee-deep piles of household trash in order to make a living. The locals collect the garbage and then resell what they salvage. They also repurpose what they find to build homes and to make their own clothing.   This grueling work puts most families living among the rubbish at risk of infectious skin diseases as well as skin cancer, diarrhea, hypertension and respiratory problems, not to mention the injuries associated with the hazardous job of picking through broken glass and jagged metal.

For the past four years, in collaboration with our in-country partner, the Mexican Association of the Order of Malta, AmeriCares has been providing vital donations of medicines, medical supplies, consumables and hygiene products to treat this population through another local organization, the National System for Integrated Family Development (DIF) in San Luis Potosí.

Twice a month, DIF sends a medical brigade to the Milpillas community.  The medical team, which consists of a doctor, nurse and health promoter, uses AmeriCares aid to treat the workers and their families.  Aside from the basic care they provide, the medical professionals offer referrals and transportation to local hospitals for serious illness or infections that require immediate attention.

AmeriCares program managers Hector Emmanuelli and Lisa Frantzen meet with local residents who benefit from the medical brigades.
PHOTO:  Tim Fadek

“The medicines and supplies donated by AmeriCares are indispensable,” says Jose Ramon Moreno Valeo, rural area coordinator for DIF.  “The people living in this community are not able to get to a doctor in San Luis Potosí nor are they able to afford the cost of medicines to treat their illnesses.  The workers make maybe 600 pesos a week; if they had to pay 250 pesos for a consultation, how would they afford to buy food for their families to eat or clothes for them to wear?”

Every day, 1,000 tons of trash is dumped into a landfill and more than 400 people spend their day collecting cardboard, metal, copper, plastic and other items they can sell for a profit.  For every 10 adults, there are three children, and on average, workers make 500 pesos, or $47, a week.  Recent efforts by the government are improving the conditions in this community, from constructing storage houses to keep the trash before it is resold to building a day care center to limit the numbers of children exposed to the waste.

AmeriCares has been working in Mexico for more than a decade, delivering aid to people in need totaling more than $132 million.  In partnering with the Mexican Association of the Order of Malta, nearly 2,900 volunteers distribute crucial aid to free clinics, hospitals, children’s homes, homes for the elderly and disabled, as well as to medical missions that treat people in hard-to-reach areas similar to the Milpillas community.