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Lily Bower, AmeriCares associate for Latin America & Caribbean Partnerships, shares a firsthand account of her experience with an AmeriCares-supported medical brigade in Yangas, Peru. Medical brigades are teams of medical professionals who travel to underserved communities and spend a day, or several days at a time, providing needed care and medications to patients.
Yangas is only two hours outside the capital, but it is a completely separate world. Most residents here are too poor to access health services in Lima and often talk about the city like it’s another country. The medical brigades AmeriCares supports lessen this distance by bringing in skilled volunteer doctors to treat patients on weekends from sunrise until sunset.
“In a single day, 500 patients received treatment.”
The brigade I attended was set up in a local school. The chairs and desks were pushed to the corners of the classrooms so they could be used as exam rooms, and the large, concrete courtyard in the center of the school served as the waiting room and registration area. When I arrived, there was already a long line of patients waiting and a makeshift pharmacy set up in a dim storeroom. In a single day, 500 patients received treatment, including a young mother of three with a severely malnourished 4-month-old. The doctors discovered the baby’s cleft palate was preventing him from receiving the nutrition he needs from breastfeeding. A few days later, one of the volunteers returned with specialized infant formula for the baby, and the nearest medical clinic arranged for the follow-up care.
Volunteers run more than two dozen of these one-day health clinics each year, crisscrossing the country from the Amazons to the Andes and the frigid, southern border with Bolivia. I am honored to be part of an organization supporting their efforts with donations of medicines and medical supplies. Together we are restoring health and saving lives.