New training courses start in Amazonia

The MSF courses are mainly aimed at training people to recognise the "white" diseases.
A new series of MSF training courses for indigenous health workers has started in the Amazon area along the Solimoes river. Dozens of health workers from nearby villages met at two locations in the area during the past week.

Villages in this inaccessible region can only be reached by boat, and the nearest hospital is often several days travel away. The MSF courses are mainly aimed at training people to recognise the "white" diseases.

The invasion of the "outside world" into the environment of the native peoples has brought tuberculosis, lung infections, flu, diarrhoea and chickenpox into the area: all diseases against which the Indians do not have any resistance. Furthermore, the rise in the number of people living in the area has lead to a serious increase in the spread of malaria. The traditional medicines are not sufficient for treating these new diseases and people still become seriously ill as the result of a simple cold. Nevertheless, until recently the Brazilian government has not provided suitable healthcare for the indigenous peoples.

MSF is working with the Indians in order to train health workers to recognise the diseases faster and to select the correct treatments.

Based in the city of Tefe, MSF is providing training at various locations for health workers from 27 villages, where some 9,000 people in all live. MSF is also supporting the Indian organisations responsible for healthcare in the region.

In 1999, a law was passed introducing a suitable healthcare system for indigenous peoples. The government is now trying to implement the system introduced by MSF nine years ago.

"MSF has shown that it is possible to have a healthcare system tailored to the specific requirements of the Indians," said medical co-ordinator Marie José de Oliveira Rodrigues.

However, the new system gives responsibility to the indigenous organisations and moreover provides them with a budget which at the moment they do not know how to use. The new legislation has led to the new healthcare districts asking MSF for help.