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Close to two billion people – or one third of the world’s population – have inadequate access to medicines. Among them are the residents of the rural Chepigana district of Panama. Recently, thanks to AmeriCares and its local partner, the Panamanian Association of the Order of Malta, a volunteer medical team responded to this need.
The volunteer team traveled more than 320 miles, struggling through rain, river, dense humidity, and muddy roads to arrive safely at the base town of Cucunatí with medicines and necessary supplies in tow. The need is great in this area, which has only a small health center with one nurse technician and a limited supply of medicines that do not cover the range of maladies suffered by the population. The nearest hospital requires a one to three hour trip. The majority of the Cucunati inhabitants are settlers dedicated to farming, raising livestock and fishing. Approximately 150 families live in town, a total population of 955 individuals. They get their water supply from river water channeled through an aqueduct, electricity for three hours daily, and phone calls from others outside the area via the town’s two public telephones.
Upon arrival at Cucunati, the team offered general medical, pediatric, and dental attention, plus lab work, vaccinations, blood pressure readings, weight and height measurements, and eyeglasses and medical prescriptions, setting up their treatment center at the local school.
More than 600 people sought the free treatment; among the main health problems identified were intestinal parasites, anemia, fungal infections, headaches, diarrhea, gastritis, premature loss of teeth, cavities, and many others. The team dispensed 837 prescriptions filled with vital medicines. The smiles of the patients more than offset the costs and labor involved in the long journey. The more than 600 Panamanians treated will not soon forget the generosity and courageous will of the participants of this medical mission, nor the medicines that helped to alleviate their pain.