When our (Josh Kavitz – Programs Director & Amanda Paniagua – Shipments Manager) travels began in Ecuador, I began to question whether the country needed the help we sent. Quito is a beautiful city and the neighborhood where we stayed had far more nice restaurants and cafes than the part of Atlanta that I call home. As we drove around the city going from hospital to hospital, Quito seemed to have the same vibrancy as other Latin American cities that I have traveled. However, as we began to visit hospitals, I saw another picture.
Many of the medical facilities in Quito were rundown cement structures with dreary hallways and stifled for lack of air movement. As we left Quito and drive into the countryside, the picture of need became much clear. Each hour we drove away from Quito and toward the port city of Esmeraldes I felt not that we were not driving toward a great Pacific port, but into what reminded me more and more of the abject poverty I found in rural Cuba many years ago.
People are living in rickety structure; sometimes they are flimsy wood and sometimes made of cinderblock. Despite the poverty and lives that appear to be on the brink of collapse from the next flood or storm, there are people working hard to ensure the health of the communty. We saw this in two facilities yesterday in Esmeraldas and Quininde. In a large MedShare supported clinic run by the brother of the province’s prefect and funded by the local government there seemed to be a haven for those who cannot afford private care and are not sick enough for the region’s Ministry of Health hospital. We saw doctors caring for sick babies, expectant mothers waiting for ultrasounds and the elderly waiting to see the director himself.
As we drove several hours into the countryside, we stopped at a new hospital built by donations gathered by the wife of the Quininde’s mayor. The facility was really a model of what all healthcare should be from its well organized files and vital statistics officer to its rehab center. With the support of a recently arrived MedShare container, this new facility can begin the work of healing the poor. However, that is not enough for them. The facility has also opened its supply room to doctors and patients in the entire area so that health is improved in every medical office, clinic and hospital.
Today, we will visit with some government officials and hospitals back in Quito with no doubt that the work of bringing surplus medical supplies and equipment is vital to improving the health and dignity of the people throughout Ecuador.