Foreign Aid Success in Peru
By: Jeff Hoover, Field Coordinator, CARE USA
On my final day in Ayacucho, Peru I had the opportunity to see CAREâs maternal health programs firsthand. We drove 3.5 hours through terrain seemingly created for Avatar to the town of Vilcashuaman (aprox 10,000â elevation). The distance and terrain alone illustrate some of the issues already facing expectant mothers in the region â namely access to health care.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the regional health center, CARE implemented a program called Foundations to Enhance Management of Maternal Emergencies (FEMME) and the results were astounding. The program led to a 46% increase in women who had access to maternal care and a 49% decrease in maternal deaths. The FEMME program proved to very successfully address cultural and religious sensitivities that led to rural women not getting the maternal care they desperately needed. The program also contributed to the development of national protocols which were replicated throughout the country.
Najarro with her baby and a health worker
We met with a group of women who received care at the local health center. The first, Najarro, 17, had a (relatively) smooth pregnancy. She talked about how she had been born at home, learned about the center from her family and wanted a safe place to have her baby. Najarro was very determined to return to school and took advantage of the health centerâs offer of free contraception. Najarro talked about how she wanted to share with others the benefits of the health center and to promote family planning to women who were currently in school or working.
Marcelena with her youngest child
We then met Marcelena, 30, who hadrecently delivered her fourth child and had many complications. She dealt with bleeding, high blood pressure and a urinary tract infection during delivery. Luckily she was referred to the larger hospital in Ayacucho city and delivered a healthy girl. While the system established by the FEMME program saved Marcelenaâs life, and the life of her baby, she clearly faced a number of other challenges. She spoke about facing domestic violence and abuse from her husband and in-laws because, in her words, she was poor. Our visit was a sad ending to our time in Ayacucho and was a stark reminder that even after saving the life of a person there is a great amount of work to do to ensure that cultural norms are inclusive and supportive of the womanâs role within a family.
The work we saw in Peru was extraordinary. It was particularly eye opening for me as it was my first trip to see CARE programs. I was struck by a number of things. Many of the programs we visited had ended, but they were still gaining strength and influence. It was clear in the starkest terms which areas were heavily influenced by CAREâs work and which werenât. People who received CARE training were healthier, had improved their economic status and enjoyed an overall better quality of life.
Our advocates in the U.S. have heard from opponents of foreign aid that itâs unsustainable and âËwe canât do it foreverâ. Many opponents of foreign aid also think the help we provide is a âËblank checkâ. This could not be further from the truth. The success of every program we saw was entirely incumbent on the localsâ participation. For these programs to work, the residents of the Ayacucho region needed to be invested for the impact to be long-term and sustainable, and thatâs exactly what happened.
To help us continue successful, cost effective investments in U.S. foreign aid, please send a message to your Members of Congressletting them know that you support investments in these types of programs!
To learn more about you can get involved in the CARE Action Network, you can also contact your local Field Coordinator.