The day we had our first info session about the viviendas saludables project, we find out that one of the mothers can’t come because she was stuck in the house with typhoid (which is can be caused by unsafe drinking water or unhygienic sanitation). Her husband works in the fields, the only livelihood of the town, and there’s really no one to care for the mother. The nearest health post is at least an hour by bus away, letting alone she has to climb down from the hill to the highway and wait for the infrequent transport, then walk to the health post (on the other side of where she will get off the bus), wait at the crowded health post and hope the doctor is attending beyond the number of 20 patients per day, which is the maximum number of patients the MINSA (Ministry of Health) says the doctor can see per day. Then she has to make the return journey. This is the reality of being sick in a rural area.
The MINSA has limited resources and much to do in terms of improve the health of citizens of a developing country. The health post, government funded, is usually understaffed and overcrowded. The doctors could get paid a lot more if they went into private practice, where patients pay with insurance policies. This is the reality health care in a rural area.
But who will cook for the husband? It’s the planting season and he spends all day in the fields, which is a 30-minute walk from the house and he probably doesn’t know how to cook anyways. Who will make lunch for the kids who were in school all day? Or will one of the kids, most likely a daughter, have to miss school and cook the food. This is not a criticism on women or men in development, but this is the reality of a rural family.
She can’t really leave the house because of the side effects (diarrhea, nausea, general weakness). She can’t attend a health program aimed at preventing these diseases because she already contracted one. The husband can’t leave the only income generating source for his family, lest the suffer more. Thus, the family looses the opportunity to participate in the program because they can’t attend the meetings, will miss the opportunity to receive a dry-bathroom, and continue to suffer due to unimproved water and sanitation services. This is the reality of being rural poor.
Note: After talking with the family, we agreed that her daughter would come to the meetings, allow us to do the house visits we do with all the other families, and prepare the same micro-projects and make the same contribution to the bathroom (sugar cane stalks to make walls for the housing unit of the bathroom),