Panama: Primary care for the Ngäbe-Bugle people

  • International staff: 4
  • National staff: 12

    People in remote areas of Panama - and in particular the indigenous groups who make up 8% of the country's population - have very limited access to health care.

    MSF works in one of these remote regions, the Rio Cricamola Valley, an area in northern Panama where people from the Ngäbe-Bugle ethnic group live.

    In November 1998, the Panamanian government recognized the administrative autonomy of this area, also called the "Comarca." However, it will take a long time before the region's administrative autonomy process is complete. Only a medical sector has been created so far.

    In Kankintu, the main village in the district, MSF is trying to improve the indigenous population's access to health care and integrate traditional and modern medicine. MSF trains, supervises and supports a dozen local health workers who serve about 25,000 people. Working through health care committees, the team provides medicine, carries out vaccinations, offers nutritional aid and provides water and sanitation services. MSF also works with traditional birth attendants in the area.

    MSF has rehabilitated and equipped Kankintu's clinic and has built a new health post in Coronte, a small village about a day's walk from Kankintu. The organization helps manage the health center and health post. The extension of the Kankintu clinic and construction of a health post in Quebrada Hacha, a two-day walk from Kankintu, have been planned for 2000.

    In addition, MSF shares its expertise with the Ministry of Health and works to facilitate relations between the Ministry of Health's provincial secretary and the "Comarca."

    MSF has been working in Panama since 1992.