Read the latest news about our Preventative Medicine program on Peru Unplugged.
Quechua Benefit is Evolving
Quechua Benefit has changed dramatically since its beginning, nowhere more so than in our medical services strategies. The nonprofit began in 1996 by making annual dental missions to Peru. At first, we simply pulled teeth. Next, we added medical missions and brought pediatricians, general practitioners, cataract surgeons and optometrists to Peru on periodic, two-week missions. These missions increased our visibility in the highlands. We came to know many communities and community leaders in remote areas. The relationships we formed built trust and created lasting goodwill. In 2014 we realized that to be truly effective, we needed to change our focus from periodic missions to preventative medicine campaigns delivered year round.
One of Quechua Benefit’s greatest strengths is the ability to deliver essential services over a vast geographic area directly to remote communities. The third pillar of our program for breaking the cycle of poverty is the preventative medicine initiative, which focuses on delivering medicine that cures the root cause of the second largest disease in the world: anemia.
Anemia affects more than half of all pregnant Peruvian women and children under five years of age, and one-third of school children in grades first through twelfth.
Anemia is the world’s second leading cause of disability, behind malaria. If this condition is allowed to prevail, then breaking the cycle of poverty is a nonstarter.
Anemia has a proven, simple and cost-effective cure. The first step is to treat the root cause: intestinal parasites. These parasites penetrate the skin through contact with animals, humans or soil. They are often ingested in contaminated food or water.
After a week-long journey through the victim’s bloodstream, the parasites attach themselves to the intestines, oftentimes growing up to 12 inches in length. The parasites devour 25 percent of the daily nutrition consumed by their host. They cause internal bleeding, fatigue, anemia, and malnutrition. A mature parasitic worm lays two hundred and fifty thousand eggs a day.
Here’s what the experts say:
• According to the World Health Organization, deworming is the number one most cost-effective method to improve children’s learning. It restores cognitive function and increases school attendance.
• In Peter Singer’s new book, The Most Good You Can Do, he cites randomized controlled studies of 500 children that determined for every $100 spent on treating parasites, they will collectively attend a total of 13.9 additional years of school.
In partnership with the Peruvian Ministry of Education, Quechua Benefit distributes the worm medicine to every child at local schools in each community we visit.
In 2016, Quechua Benefit’s first preventative medicine campaign treated 1,000 children for parasites and cured 70% of the children who were diagnosed with anemia. Our anemia treatment program expanded in 2018 to ten communities where 8,000 children were treated for with a 63% cure rate. With your help, we can do more.