June 17, 2010
by Katie Skelton
East Tennessee State University
College of Public Health
All is going well here in Urubamba, Peru where my day begins at 4:45 am each morning. I wake up, get dressed, grab a quick bite to eat and head to the local bus station to catch an early bus to the local villages. By the time I arrive in the communities, it is 6:30 am. It is imperative for us to arrive in the villages as early as possible as the village families work in the fields in the morning so we must arrive before they set out for their daily routines.
For the past few weeks we have gone house-to-house to gather as much information as possible from the local communities. The purpose of our survey has been to determine the main health problems in the area. Our surveys are now complete and after many grueling mornings, the results have been analyzed. The problems are vast: nutrition, diarrhea, intense cough, lack of health education, and more. We have determined that the most pressing issue in the area surrounds none-other-than water in terms of both availability and quality.
The Sacred Valley is affected by water in every imaginable way. It impacts every area of their lives from health to their daily activities and jobs. Sadly water here is rationed and is turned off at different times of the day for various parts of Urubamba. I personally have experienced the effects of the lack of water; there have been stretches of days when I have been unable to bathe because water has not been provided to my home. As you might expect, I am unable to drink the water or eat anything that has been washed with it. Regrettably a number of my co-workers have become sick due to infections from drinking the water.
Although life here in Urubamba is impacted by water, the effects in communities fifteen minutes away are even more devastating. The majority of these families rely upon agriculture for their sustenance. Without water their crops will not flourish, they cannot give water to their animals, nor can they cook, clean, or do normal daily activities.
To obtain clean water these families must purchase water from a truck that makes trips to the area and of course, this is not enough water for all of the families. Aside from the shortage, this water is expense and families must also carry the water home.
From our surveys, we pinpointed many of the recurring health issues of the approximately 180 families in our target communities. Many of their problems are related to fecal-oral contamination, giardia, and other parasitic infections. People are treated for their illnesses but quickly experience re-infection as a result of drinking dirty water. To help solve many of these issues, I am currently working on a proposal to provide water filters to each of the families in our target population. These filters will allow families to have clean water free of parasitic infections. Through focusing on water we are hopeful we can help improve the health status and quality of life for the residents of the Sacred Valley communities.