January 19, 2017 1:36 PM

House Clean-up Project in Cusco

Written by Jake Kincaid

   In the 2017 winter clinic season MEDLIFE Cusco began to help organize, renovate and clean people's houses alongside our fuel efficient stove project. The effort was a great success, leaving community members with nicer homes while fostering connection and cultural exchange between volunteers and locals. We also worked to improve sanitation by enouraging better hygiene practices like, for example, encouraging people to not keep livestock in their kitchens.

IMG 4911

We worked closely with community members to make their homes a better living space.

IMG 5001Volunteers sanded and painted walls.

IMG 5035They organized belongings.

IMG 5222There were holes in walls that needed to be filled.

 

 IMG 5101Before the renovation project.

 IMG 5105Volunteers beginning to clear away clutter and start cleaning.

 IMG 6095Walls were painted, shelves were put on and belongings were organized.

 IMG 6567

 IMG 6577

IMG 6578Volunteers worked closely with home owners to improve living spaces.

IMG 6583

IMG 7205The finished homes looked beautiful!

IMG 7208

IMG 7222He is the first in his family to stay in school at his age, and was kind enough to write and read a poem to thank the group for their work.

 

January 17, 2017 11:10 AM

Clinic highlights from Lima

Written by Rosali Vela

The past week, MEDLIFE Volunteers and medical professionals from Peru visited neighborhoods around Lima for mobile clinics. Students from Boston College, Claremont College, Mount Saint Mary College, Cornell, Wisconsin, UC Berkley, Modesto Junior College, California State University Long Beach, Iowa, Temple, San Francisco State University, Pomona College, University of Connecticut, University of Maryland at College Park and University of Massachusetts at Amherst participated. Over the week, MEDLIFE Mobile clinics were able to serve over 800 aldults and over 700 children. These photos are from various areas around Lima and highlight some of the services MEDLIFE provides during mobile clinics.

IMG 7769Mobile clinics adapt to the unique setting and needs of each neighborhood, utilizing tents, community spaces and even homes, to provide care. 

IMG 7822Over 1500 patients passed through MEDLIFE´s mobile clinics over a 5 day period. 

IMG 8287The education station gives information on prevention methods for common health problems in Lima. Women´s health is part of the focus of the education program and over 250 women were able to consult with an obstrotrician during the week.

IMG 8313After talking to a doctor, patients pick up any necessary medication from the pharmacy. About 1400 patients recieved medication pescribed by a doctor working the clinic.

IMG 8353Patients receive one on one conversations and checkups with local doctors while volunteers aid and learn from the professionals. After this week, MEDLIFE nurses will continue to visit with 83 patients who are a part of the follow up program.

IMG 8380Children have a station set up for toothbrushing techniques and fluoride application. Over 1,100 children brushed their teeth and received a free toothbrush.

IMG 7978Over 200 patients were able to receive dental care throughout the clinic. About half of the patients were children.

Last friday, the community of Laderas Nueva Esperanza was able to inaugurate a new water reservoir. The project was the result of three years of collaboration between MEDLIFE, leaders from Laderas and the sponsorship of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of California-Berkeley MEDLIFE chapters. Through fundraising efforts and donations, the UW-Madison and UC Berkeley chapters were able to contribute to the project and members were present to witness the inauguration.


Laderas, located in the foothills of Lima, is not serviced by SEDAPAL, the city water supply of Lima, and relied on purchasing water from private vendors at a higher price. The water reservoir will help the community by allowing them to store more water in a clean and sanitary facility.

IMG 6855

The new water reservoir in Laderas Nueva Esperanza.

IMG 6849A band played to celebrate the completion of the new water reservoir.

IMG 6870The University of Wisconsin-Madison helped fundraise for the construction of the water reservoir.

IMG 6792Volunteers from UC Berkley and UW Madison celebrate with Laderas Nueva Esperanza.

This week we interviewed Spencer Treu, President of the Winona State MEDLIFE chapter, about how the chapter's success. The chapter has been very successful, growing very rapidly, attending several trips, and brining $5000 worth of medical supplies to their recent Mobile Clinic in Cusco.

IMG 4825

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE? 

It’s actually a funny little story, halfway through my college career I switched from nursing to pre-med. I was at the club fair looking for the pre-med club. I thought well I’m pre-med, I should join the pre-med club. There was this table called MEDLIFE. It was two girls who had just created the club and had recently taken a trip. This was their second year doing it. I had approached them and was like 'is this the Pre-med club?' And they were like 'no this is MEDLIFE, this is way better'. I was like 'alright I’m interested, I’ll hear you out.'  They said 'we're planning on going to Ecuador this year.' And I was sold. I went to Tena last year just traveling as a member and it was truly a life changing experience. I think everyone who comes on these trips realizes what it can do for you. And kind of more than anything puts things in perspective and gives you a new world view so then you can take that back home. Whether you’re going into medicine education or whatever, just having that perspective is really important. After that trip we came back, we had a few meetings here and there, and the officers approached me and said “hey you should run for chapter president. We created this club and we’d like to keep it going.”

I said, “Ya sure I’d love too.” I was fortunate enough to get elected by my fellow members, I’m here leading this trip this year and it’s been phenomenal so far.

What has your chapter accomplished since you’ve been working with MEDLIFE?

Well actually, I think we’ve been kicking butt. Tanya and Sam were the two girls who created the club, and within months of creating the club, they were on a trip to Lima, Peru. The following year, when I joined, we did a lot of fundraiser stuff. They got a small amount of money from student senate and took another trip within 12 months of creating the club. So they had two trips underneath their belt within a very short time of creating the club. Then I took over, we got our eboard together, did some fundraising, we actually brought a little over $5000 worth of medical equipment over for this trip to Cusco. Although we are a smaller university around of 8000 students, we have 28 active members, and about 95% of our active members will travel with us. That is my biggest thing that I am most proud of with the club. Not anything that I or any of the officers have done, but just that we have a lot of passionate students an Winona State that not only get involved, but say, 'I see what you guys are doing and I want to get over there and help and not just stay on the fundraising coordination side of things.' That’s pretty inspiring to me.

IMG 4890

What did you do to get people so engaged so quickly?

When I took over, I thought, 'what can I do to make sure this club maintains momentum and keeps going?' I thought, if I can get people on these trips, they are going to keep going, and they are going to tell their friends about it. There is nothing better I can do than to get people to go on these trips and actually see these things for themselves, help these people, hand that kid a tooth brush, throw some cement on the floor. That’s what going to get people coming back, that’s what is going to build the organizations. From an E-board perspective we just make sure things are as easy as possible, you know, write out everything on the whiteboard, click this click that, step by step so that things are always taken care of for them. One E-board member actually took care of all the flights, so all the students had to do was show up and pay the money. A lot of these pre-med and education students are super busy in school, and we want them to get overseas with us and come on the trips, and in order to do that we gotta do kind of alot for them just to make their life easier. 

What is your most memorable experience working with MEDLIFE?

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel throughout my life. Starting in the 4th grade, in Jamaica, I was driving through areas that from the outside you can see like wow this is different than where I’m from. At 4th grade you don't really understand what that means. You can definitely tell that the resources aren’t there. I kept traveling and seeing places like this in Central and South America, but in the first MEDLIFE trip it really hit home. I saw the medical side of things, and on this trip, I really got to be in people’s home’s and community. The most memorable part was on the reality tour this year, actually stepping inside of one of the homes for the first time. You step in, and although you might have thought what it looked like inside, it just confirms it. All of a sudden, you're upset with yourself for every time you’ve been upset about something little. You kind of just step back and think, there is a clay floor, cracked mud walls, a ceiling that is burned from cooking in the kitchen, there is no ventilation. You feel this obligation in a sense, I’m young, I’m able bodied and minded, I have this chance to turn a dream into a reality. You can’t just go home and go back to your normal life and forget about it, because that night I get home from my flight and I get back in my queen size bed, which is super comfy and awesome, they will still be going to bed in the clay house. You can’t forget about that. You have make sure to keep moving forward to grow organizations like this, spread the knowledge, spread the generosity.

January 3, 2017 4:31 PM

A Christmas Chocolatada in Lima

Written by Rosali Vela

Last week, MEDLIFE, helped to host a Chocolatada at the Señor de Muruhuay School in Lima. A Cholotada is traditional Christmas celebration, popular in Peru, where a Hot Cocoa-like drink is passed around with Panetton bread. Through donations, MEDLIFE was also able to give all the Children in the class a present as well.

IMG 4847 copyA clown visited the children to sing and dance to Christmas music.

IMG 4895 copyPanetton bread is prepared for the Chocolatada.

IMG 4898 copyDon't tell the kids! Yanet played the role of Papá Noel.

IMG 4923 copyKids were excited to meet Papá Noel.

IMG 5059 copyThe volunteers had almost as much fun as the children!

IMG 5154 copyThanks to donations, volunteers were able to deliver gifts to the children at Señor de Muruhuay School

IMG 5211 copyMEDLIFE's own, Raul, delivers a gift for the celebration.

 

Alison Jae Lenon

1.jpg

How did you get involved with a 50:50 Campaign?          

My name is Alison, and I did a 50:50 campaign for my trip to Riobamba because I wanted to reduce the price for my trip but the more I did it the more I realized I want to support MEDLIFE’s cause. Especially to help low income families in Ecuador. And that really resonated with me when I finally got here and realized how powerful the 50:50 campaign is and how it really helps the people here. What I did to do that was post it on facebook and asked them to donate as a Christmas present instead of getting me an actual present it was just an overall effort from my family and friends. I raised about $1400 and half of it went to my trip and half of it went to MEDLIFE. I am really proud of myself for that.

What challenges did you face?

            I think the hardest part about the 50:50 campaign is explaining to people what they are donating too. People don’t want to just donate money and then not know where there money went. So I spent a lot of time telling people what they were donating to and why I want to raise money for MEDLIFE.  It was just really hard at first, the first four days to get people to donate to the campaign

Why did you decide to do a 50:50 Campaign?

          I did it just to help out MEDLIFE. I was looking at the videos in Riobamba and all the clinics they had participated in before, and I knew that my money was going to a great cause.

Caroline Wang

Untitled-1.jpg

How did you start a 50:50 Campaign?

            My name is Caroline Wang. I got started with 50:50 campaign because as soon as I signed up the website asked me if I wanted to start a fundraising campaign. I knew I wanted to fundraise my trip and I knew that the 50:50 was a good way to fundraise for myself but also for the MEDLIFE communities in general. Because a lot of these communities need the help. And for a lot of family members that would donate to the 50 50 campaign would not only be giving back to me but would also be giving back to these communities that need it.

What was your fundraising strategy?

          I fundraised for about 3 weeks. I started as soon as I signed up. It was really convenient to sign up. I sent it out on facebook, Instagram, twitter, and tried to get as many donations as I could. Especially with the holidays coming around, a lot of people were really generous. I asked for donations as my Christmas present, and that’s how I was able to rack up a lot of money.

How did you feel about the contribution you made?

         I raised about 1000 dollars and about 500 of that went to the community and it was really just humbling to see where the money was going. We visited rodrigo’s house. We saw pictures of the stairs being built in Peru and it was really just- it felt good to see that the money was being used for something useful not just for my trip itself. Meeting and interacting with the locals in the communities, it made me feel very privileged and very grateful for what I have back at home. Coming here and seeing this, I love giving back. I think its important to give back not only in our communities in the states but also globally. It is definitely something I would like to do again. I think MEDLIFE does a great job of helping communities and making sure its an ongoing project and not just a one time thing with a continued followup process.

 2.jpg

IMG 1134

 Edomia Poma Pallcarcajo works in the comedor in the communidad of El Jardines in San Juan De Miraflores to support her family, serving up nutritious, cheap government subsized meals to her neighbors. Since living in El Jardines, Edomia has worked to improve the life of her community through efforts like teaching a weekend class to local kids out of her house and helping her neighbors on home improvement projects. She was also MEDLIFE’s point of contact with the community for the recent stair project we completed there the week of December 18th. What makes Edomia and the community of Jardines even more remarkable is that they were able to organize to connect the community to the municipal water supply system and electric system, an effort which Edomia and her husband, who is general secretary of the group of communities city government, played a critical part in.

I spoke with Edomia to learn more about what her strategies and motivations are for the inspiring work she does.

* This interview has been paraphrased and translated from Spanish *

Tell me about some of the work you have done recently with MEDLIFE and within the community.

We have always wanted to have this project (the staircase) to live better, for ease of movement in our community. We have achieved this dream putting our strength, our part, of all our neighbors, men, women and children together. It is difficult, but nothing is impossible for us. Sometimes, the situation is not so easy in this place, in this part of Peru. We live on a little hill. With all of our strength we have brought water and plumbing to our community. I give this message to other communities who also organize and do their part: Not having money doesn’t mean that you cannot improve, that you cannot have. You need to have strength and make a decision. Go to your neighbors, be an example, speak with them, they too can learn to work together. Unity creates strength. Every step we take brings us closer to our goals.

I also want to say thank you to the young people who have visited us from abroad. They are our brothers, I welcome and thank them from my heart. For me, it is a joy to work together with them and my community, smile and walk down the staircase with ease.

What is are some obstacles you face when trying to get the community together to work together on a project?

In a community, not everyone is collaborative and wants to work together. They are not bad people. There is always someone who is discouraged, who has lost hope. But they are not a bad person. They have not been taught, they don’t have the experience, but they too can learn to think in a new way. Some people wait (to work on community projects) until they have a salary, or until they get a reward, but let me tell you the greatest reward you can receive is the happiness of your neighbors, and to see you impact of your work culminate in your community. One person alone cannot  make a big difference, but together as a community you can. Give your hand to your neighbour, never your back. You will see a changed family, a new family, and this will make you happy. 

IMG 1142MEDLIFE Projects Director Carlos Benavides Discusses a potential project with Edomia.

 Have you ever been discouraged?

When we were working on the water and plumbing project, some people thought that I was receiving a salary for this work, or that I was taking the money for the project and using it for myself. But that wasn’t true, I worked on the project because I wanted it for my community. I felt very sad when one of my neighbors accused my of taking money. I had a dream of a tree that was full of fruit. I was underneath it next to the woman who accused me and it told me, help her, lift her up, so I helped her and lifted her up so she could reach the fruit. What did this tree want to tell me? I meditated and thought about it and decided to take a box and write “help your fellow man” on it and “we want a better life, to have water and plumbing,” and I went to city down below to try and raise money with this woman. We talked with passerby and sang. People gave us change… After some time, she forgave me and supported me on projects.

What was Jardines like when you got here? How did you start working to help others in your community?

When I got here, this place was sand. We didn’t have water or electricity. Our houses were made of wood and plastic bags. I started by giving people advice… I saw their difficulties and gained their trust. I used to always keep medicine in my house, when there (her neighbors) kids were sick, they would knock on my door and ask for a pill. They confided in me.

Later, I would go help them fix their roof, their rooms to make it like a house and help them take out all of the rocks. I would teach them: you can make your house better. I would tell them, I will help you, show me your budget on paper and I will help you make a plan to save money for improvements. Maybe you don’t have money to remove your roof that has collapsed. What about if you take a day and I will come to your house and we can do it together… At first they looked at me “hey neighbor, what’s going on? Why are you helping me take all the rocks out of my house?” But I did it as if it were my own. I showed them and they followed my lead. There are a lot of houses on this little hill that have been improved. 

15722588 302901013439773 1162283020 nEdomia with her kids on a new MEDLIFE Staircase

 What was your motivation to do all of this? Have you always thought this way?

I am from the district of Andamarca, from the province of conception. I left when I was 11. I saw how much need there was there. Many of us had the desire to study, but the economy didn’t help us. I didn’t even have shoes for elementary school, nor a uniform, notebook, my parents couldn’t help me. I saw my families like this. I wanted to be a professional. I wasn’t able to have a professional career.

I left and went to work in a chicken restaurant helping the cook when I was 11, but always with sadness in my heart, always with the desire to go back and help. Maybe even just by giving someone shoes, a notebook, some fruit... A lot of time passed and I never went back, I was just a child, I didn’t know how to get back …

I met my husband at 15, at 18 we went to Lima together and got married. I lived in a rented apartment in Pueblo Libre, then I went to Comas and had my first kid. He is in university now. He is going to finish in one year. I am so happy for him.

Since we were living in a rented room, it was so expensive. We went to visit some family in Pamplona, and they told us “there is an invasion in the hills. There is land up there. You can go.” We went looking for a place to live. At first I couldn’t get used to it because of all the sand. I suffered a lot. But I thought about my family and how am I ever going to be able to help them if I live in a rented room? It is better to stay here. So I spoke with my husband and we stayed. I still wanted to go find my family in the provinces, but I saw that my neighbours here were also from humble places in the provinces like me, and I said, well, it is better that I stay. Because the people here also need my help.

 

December 22, 2016 8:29 AM

Mapping Bathroom and Staircase Projects

Written by Jake Kincaid

MEDLIFE has completed over 207 projects in Peru and 74 in Ecuador. Many of these projects are either Stair Cases or Hygiene projects, both of which have been a core component of MEDLIFE’s work from the beginning.

The majority of these projects had GPS coordinates saved for them in an archive. We decided to map them to get a sense of the scope of MEDLIFE’s between 2004 and 2017. Included in the map are the locations of most of the staircases, bathrooms, and a few school projects. Keep in mind, around 100 projects are missing from this map because we don’t have the coordinates. Can you find the project from your Mobile Clinic? Look for the year and month of the clinic.

In the steep hillsides of Villa Maria de Triunfo and San Juan De Miraflores, a simple concrete staircase can change lives. Families living in the area have no access to running water and instead are forced to haul buckets back and forth to their houses from large plastic containers filled daily by passing trucks. This task is not only time consuming but incredibly dangerous as the damp winter climate transforms the roads and pathways into slippery, eroding descents.

Adults and children alike are slowed down by the downward climb on their way to school and work, and fall-related injuries are common and costly. By building stairs, MEDLIFE is able to make the cumbersome daily journey easier, safer, and faster. It also is an important step in securing land titles and access to the public water system.

In 2011, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared diarrhoeal diseases to be the second leading cause of death in low-income countries. The WHO and UNICEF estimate that functional, clean bathrooms can reduce cases of diarrhea by more than 33%; simply being able to wash your hands with soap can reduce cases of diarrhea by more than 40%. Yet, for approximately 2.5 billion people, or 35% of the world's population, there is no functioning bathroom at all. If rural areas do not have functioning facilities, they are slower to be expanded upon and improved.

For MEDLIFE Ecuador, bathroom construction projects are an integral part of the health care work that we do. Projects are typically focused on rural, majority indigenous communities on the outskirts of cities. These areas are geographically isolated from access to reliable potable water and improved sanitation.

On January 7th, the Miami University of Ohio MEDLIFE chapter will arrive in Moshi, Tanzania for a week of Mobile Clinics From an outside perspective, it is easy to focus on the work that will be done in Moshi as the start and end of this chapter’s work, yet when volunteers arrive in Tanzania, the efforts have already started back in the United States.

Miami University, like many MEDLIFE chapters, fundraises throughout the year. Elaine Sidler, Miami University of Ohio MEDLIFE President, says the greatest source of fundraising comes from their Color Run 5k, now in its second year. The event brought in over $4,000 to bring the combined fundraising from other events to $5000.

executive boardThe Miami University of Ohio MEDLIFE Excutive board.

According to Sidler, the funds were split between MEDLIFE for projects and the Oxford Free Clinic, a clinic in Oxford, Ohio seeking to provide basic medical care to underserved citizens and ensure they have access to the medications prescribed for their treatment.

A unique approach the Miami chapter has taken in preparing for their trip to Tanzania is the Pads for a Purpose event. Past president of the chapter, Allison Kumnick, came up with the idea after a MEDLIFE trip to Tanzania after observing the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products to women and girls in the area.

Kumnick learned about handmade, reusable pads from students from the Kansas University MEDLIFE chapter who were bringing them over from the United States. The pads are made from cotton stuffing enclosed in a towelling fabric and fabric square. These are cut in the shape of the a pad and sewn together to create the pads.

Kumnick was able to get funds from the Miami University Women’s Center on campus for materials. After reserving a room, they were able to get over 100 women sewing pads.   

allisonAllison Kumnick (left) helped to organize the Pads for a Purpose event at Miami University to create reusable pads to women and girls in Tanzania.

“We reserved a room in our student center and girls from MEDLIFE, sororities, and other clubs came together to sew the pads,” Sidler said. “The atmosphere was amazing; everyone was sitting with friends and talking while they made them and we were playing an awesome “Girl Power” playlist from Spotify.”

In areas with a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, reusable pads can greatly enhance women’s ability to work, go to school and quality of life. Talking about menstruation is taboo in much of the world, including the United States, but having secure access to the products necessary to deal with it is a step towards greater freedom of choice for women and girls.

Thank you to the Miami University of Ohio’s Chapters contribution to MEDLIFE as well as their support of local health initiatives. We wish them well on their way to Moshi, Tanzania.

         If one only visits Lima’s developed and wealthier districts like Miraflores, San Isidro, Surco, or San Borja, in can be hard to tell that Lima is a city located in the desert and one of the driest capital cities in the world. But if you the continue driving into what are known as “los conos” on the city’s periphery, to the north, east, and south, within a few blocks the view changes dramatically and the realities of the desert are revealed as dusty hills covered in shantytowns stretching as far as the eye can see. In many of the low-income communities that cover the hills known as "pueblos jovenes" or "asentamientos humanos," the resources, community organization and urban planning are not capable of turning the desert green. Far from it, many people don’t even have adequate access to drinkable water. Overcoming significant barriers to access water is one of the most pressing daily hardships faced by the residents of Lima’s perpetually dusty slums.

screen shot 2016 12 14 at 4 03San Isidro, Lima, Peru.

.screen shot 2016 12 14 at 3 59Pamplona Alta in Cono Sur, about 11 kilometers across the city from San Isidro.

      The city has about 91% water coverage and 90% sewage according to the World Bank. However, the reality is that half of the population receives unsafe water and the poorest communities in “los conos,” at least half a million people are dependent on private water vendors that sell the water at up to 12 times the price of a public utility (2).

       To make matters worse, the poorest residents live in communities at the top of the hills that often have no road access or even a staircase to make the climb easier. The water trucks only drive to where there is road access and make infrequent trips to many communities, so residents are forced to walk long distances to get to the water trucks, and then carry the water up to their homes. In Lima, the poor pay the most for water economically and with their time and labor.

        Most of the communities that are not connected to Lima’s public water utility, SEDAPAL, because they do not have the land title to the land they settled on and are thus not legally recognized by the government. This is compounded by a total lack of roads, or by roads that are mere loose dirt paths and not driveable by construction limiting access into the communities.  

        The government has put in place several programs to attempt to improve water access, the most prominent of which was called “Agua Para Todos,” launched in 2007.  Despite a huge investment of public funds, the results have failed to reach vast stretches of the conos. Edomia Poma Pallcarcajo, a community organizer in Los Jardines has worked for years to try and get the government to connect her community to the public water utility with little success.

img 1134Director of MEDPrograms Peru Carlos Benavides and Edomia Poma Pallcarcajo planning a future staircase project in Jardines.

        “We tried to wait for the government to bring us “agua para todos,” but the years passed, and now we are old. Jardines has been here for 24 years. I got here when I was 19, now I am 42.”

In 2015, Jardines asked SEDAPAL how they could access the benefits of the program.  They told the community that in five or ten years, they could get connected.

“Then, I will be in my fifties,” Edomia said. “ I don’t want to still be without water.”

        In 2011 Agua Para Todos was investigated by the Peruvian National Congress and found that the program, along with the public utility SEDAPAL had been badly mismanaged with a cost of around $1.5 billion USD was accused of fraud. Antonio Iorvis, who has written extensively on the commodification of water and in particular Lima’s water system, concluded that Agua Para Todos clearly shows that a large investment of public funds does not guarantee improve water services or water scarcity. (1)

In light the dismal state of the public water service, Edomia and the community of Jardines decided to take matters into their own hands and contracted a private company to build the infrastructure for them.  One year later, Jardines is ready to connect to SEDAPAL. They will have water pumped directly into their homes for half the monthly cost of buying water from water trucks. The downside is that this project cost each household 1500 soles (about $500), a very high price to pay for low-income residents in Lima.

Privatized Water

Internationally, water privatization has been advanced as a solution to government failures to provide water, as seen in Lima. Joanna Robinson sums up the logic in her book about water privatization:

   “Some argue that water privatization was promoted as a lucrative investment for the private sector and a way for governments to allocate resources more efficiently, more recently private sector water delivery has been endorsed and encouraged by the World Bank and other global financial institutions, as a way of correcting the failures of public water management, including increasing environmental conservation, reducing social and economic inequities—particularly in developing countries—and providing clean water to the billions of people who currently lack access worldwide. Since the 1980s, public water systems have been under attack by proponents of market-based models of governance, who argue that “governments are less productive, efficient, and effective than markets.”With the massive governance failure on the part of the public sector, including poor planning, crumbling infrastructure, and pollution and degradation of water systems, private sector involvement in water systems has been hailed as a means of correcting those failures and increasing equity in terms of access to and affordability of water services by poor and marginalized populations.” (2)

In 2000, more than 460 million people had their water supplied by transnational water firms and that number has only continued to grow (2). The results of this effort have been mixed internationally and sparked heated debate, with many critics arguing that privatization is another form of neo-colonialism, and proponents on the other side of the debate arguing that it serves to spread access and increase efficiency.

In Lima, news that the government was considering privatizing SEDAPAL caused large protests that blocked traffic on major roads.  Protesters cited fear of increased tariffs, high buy in costs like those in Jardines and the extremely poor and expensive service for those currently being serviced by private water truck companies as reasons why privatization should be opposed.

Although some communities like Jardines have been able to construct their own water infrastructure, many cannot afford this, and high cost and constant struggle to procure basic necessities like water is a constant burden that holds communities back from moving forward. MEDLIFE recognizes that one of the best ways to empower communities is to alleviate this burden, and so help communities improve water access in whatever way we can.

How MEDLIFE Works to Improve Water Access

If a community can get the government to pay to build them the infrastructure, this is the best solution, but fulfilling the requirements is costly and there is no funding from the government for these sorts of projects. Along with being useful to communities in their own right, many MEDLIFE development projects serve to complete the requirements for both water connection and land titles.

Communities need road access and a safe entrance and exit from communities. This can be very difficult, as these communities were built without any urban planning oversight, and thus are often built on land that would never be chosen by a developer. Retention walls must often first be constructed to stabilize the land for construction and to prevent rockslides. MEDLIFE staircases fulfill the requirement of a safe entrance and exit.  

MEDLIFE is in the process of building a road in one of the communities we have worked in the most, Union De Santa Fe. This road, combined with the many staircases and the retention wall MEDLIFE has built should qualify Union Santa Fe for connection to SEDAPAL.  However Union Santa Fe Community Organizer Casani, who is working with SEDAPAL to organize the connection says that even after a six year development process process of building the staircases and the roads with MEDLIFE to improve infrastructure and help Union Santa Fe meet SEDAPAL requirements, the process will take around three years.

        We know that the families of Union De Santa Fe and countless other communities could not wait that long when they are thirsty today. We built a water pylon like the one in Jardines that connects to the SEDAPAL system down the hill and brings water directly into residents homes in Union de Santa Fe and now they have affordable water in their homes.

 screen shot 2016 12 14 at 3 56A photo of Urucancha taken from above by a drone.

However, sometimes, it is not possible to construct a Pylon to connect to the public utility, as many communities are located far away from connection points to the SEDAPAL system on very poor sites for construction. Meeting requirements would be extremely expensive and time consuming in these places, and then it could take years for the government to get around to doing the project.

In Urucancha, for example, a community in the Southern Cone that is located on the top of the hill that separates La Molina, one of the wealthiest areas, from Pamplona Alta, one of the poorest, a pylon project was not feasible. Yet Urucancha was badly in need of better water access, the water trucks only drove that high on the hill about every two weeks and residents had no way to store enough water to last that long. Recently, the water trucks have decided that the amount of water Urucacha was purchasing wasn’t worth the long trip up the hill, so they didn’t come for 6 weeks, leaving the residents with no option but to make the 40 minute steep hike from the next nearest water stop carrying their water.

Lack of water is Urucancha’s main problem, but storing water in sanitary conditions for long periods was also an issue. The big open barrels of water that can be cheaply purchased by residents to store water often become unsanitary and contaminated with “green fungus,” as reported to us by many residents.

img 1225Urucancha Residents next to the new water tank.

In this case, MEDLIFE constructed a huge tank that could be filled by the water trucks and leave the community with enough water to last between visits.  The tanks are sealed, and thus will keep the water clean from contamination. The trucks will make the trip often enough to keep the tanks filled, because they are now selling in bulk, which also reduces cost. This project brings water to 150 families.

We knew we could reach more people, so we are currently constructing a larger and more ambitious water tank project that will be able to service several communities at once higher on hillsides in Laderas. We are building three water tanks that will be filled by water trucks and then funnel water directly to the homes of 220 families and around 1000 residents. This will be our largest water project yet, and we won’t stop here.

 IMG 1145Water tanks under construction in Laderas

Sources:

1:Barajas, Ismael Aguilar, Jürgen Mahlknecht, Jonathan Kaledin, Marianne Kjellén, and Abel Mejía. "5."Water and Cities in Latin America: Challenges for Sustainable Development. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2015. N. pag. Print. 

2: Robinson, Joanna L. "1." Contested Water: The Struggle against Water Privatization in the United States and Canada. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2013. N. pag. Print.

 

 

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>
Page 1 of 35