UBUNTU’s emergency medical technicians bring medical expertise, professional training and human confidence to Colombia’s infrastructure-dependent region – the Chocó jungle region.
On 22 April 2020, the time had finally come: despite a curfew, a small aircraft was allowed to take off with special permission and landed at Condoto Airport in Chocó, a region that is currently largely cut off from the outside world. In the plane: a seven-member medical crisis team from Cali. Under the direction of the renowned disaster doctor Laureano Quintero, director of the Salamandra Centro Internacional de Urgencias y Emergencias in Cali, four paramedics and a general practitioner will accompany the infrastructurally cut off region of Chocó through the Corona crisis.
The UBUNTU mission is the result of a collaboration between CASA HOGAR, the Diocese of Istmina-Tadó and Dr. Quintero – volunteer of CASA HOGAR. The aim of the mission: to prepare the local population in Chocó for a Covid 19 outbreak. “In Chocó, there are hardly any doctors who have the knowledge to deal with disaster situations,” says Laura Morales, describing the alarming situation in Chocó. As a CASA HOGAR employee, Morales coordinates the mission on site and is certain: without support, the region would have no chance against Covid-19.
The most important aspect of the mission is the sustainable transfer of knowledge: The medical experts from Cali want to train the local doctors and nurses to treat Covid-19 patients. The training includes courses on hygiene, correct use of protective material and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. In addition, national guidelines for hospital processes are to be adapted to the conditions in Chocó and implemented – no easy task for the remote region in the jungle. With help from the city of Cali, this is now to be achieved. “This measure is not only important for the current emergency situation, but also a long-term benefit,” explains Morales.
In terms of infrastructure, Chocó was also in a very poor position to cope with the pandemic. The local hospital in Istmina lacked protective material, testing facilities, intensive care beds and isolation facilities. CASA HOGAR donated medical equipment to address this shortage. During the pandemic period, a vacant clinic was also reactivated by the local government to treat only Covid-19 patients in the future. “During an initial meeting at the clinic, we inspected the existing infrastructure together with the experts from Cali and discussed its best possible use in view of the circumstances,” Morales explains. An action plan for cooperation between the teams was also forged.
The team of experts from Cali will spend the next few weeks in the Chocó and will assist the local team with all questions. Finding people who want to work in Chocó is not easy, says Laura Morales. The area is considered a high-risk region; if you get the virus, the health prospects are worse than in the cities. In addition, there are the social problems, murders, territorial conflicts, which do not stop even despite Covid-19. “We are therefore all the more grateful for the efforts of the experts from Cali. This is also how the local population sees it: On the streets, the doctors from the city are greeted friendly, some Chocoans even give presents to the experts. “Since Mission UBUNTU has been here, people feel much safer,” Laura Morales is pleased to say.
But there is still a lot to be done: The health care system in Chocó is infrastructurally neglected compared to the rest of the country and the hospital in Istmina is supposed to and now wants to catch up in record time. The medical staff must be prepared in terms of content for dealing with the virus. The local population is to be educated in hygiene measures. And last but not least, the people in Chocó must be provided with food. Because of the corona pandemic, many of them are no longer able to work; few of them have any savings, because they always live hand-to-mouth anyway. Therefore, CASA HOGAR supports women and their families with food parcels (project: Cabeza de Hogar) in parallel to the medical mission UBUNTU. Because one thing is certain: “I am because we are”.
More information about the Covid-19 package of measures by CASA HOGAR