Click on one of the four locations the Mobile Health Unit visits below to start your journey!
Zudáñez is one of the headquarters for the Mobile Health Unit. There the team packs the vehicle with a stretcher, an oxygen tank, intravenous kits, a ready supply of contraception, and dozens of medications for common sicknesses. Then they set out for Rodeo Grande. The journey is only 160 miles, which would take approximately four hours, but given the conditions of the roads, the journey takes about eight hours.
Comprehensive sexuality education has a critical role to play in reducing poverty and unintended pregnancies, and in empowering women and girls. For most Bolivian women, the Mobile Health Unit is their only source for information on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Watch this video to see the team’s health educator provide information to indigenous communities in the remote corners of Bolivia.
There are approximately 650 inhabitants in the mountainous and barren community of Rodeo Grande. It is an impoverished town, lacking electricity and plumbing. The homes are made of rocks, straw, and adobe, and they lack bathrooms. Most kids walk three hours to get to school.
Cervical cancer is the most prevalent and lethal cancer among women in Bolivia, creating a serious public health and economic burden for an already struggling country. CIES began a successful cervical cancer vaccination project for girls in rural and urban areas. Watch this video to see girls being vaccinated in the community of Rodeo Grande.
The team drives on impassable roads and mountainous cliffs to reach its next stop. Traveling along, the team passes through arid stretches and tranquil territory, only occasionally passing homes and other signs of life. Depending on the season, the team often has to navigate muddy terrain and riverbeds, which require careful—and often creative—driving.
This is a community of about 600 people wedged between the mountains and the lowlands of Bolivia. Most people work in agriculture; corn is the main crop. A few families sell things like rice, oil, cookies, and sodas. During the rainy season there are mudslides, and the conditions make it nearly impossible for the Mobile Health Unit to arrive at Chapimayu.
"We have to use what we can," says Dr. Rosario Cervantes, as she glides a pocket-size, battery-operated ultrasound machine along the belly of a 16-year-old expectant mother who is stretched out on a makeshift examining table. A headlamp is still strapped to Dr. Cervantes’ head from the Pap smear she performed on another patient moments earlier. She speaks sweetly but directly to the apprehensive teenager gazing up at her. The patient shakes her head when asked whether she has received any prenatal care before.
More than one in five Bolivians has an unmet need for family planning, and Bolivia’s maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. The lack of sexual and reproductive health care is particularly notable in the poorest areas of Bolivia.
This community is primarily inhabited by indigenous Guaraní populations. The road to this community is dusty and full of debris; some sections are difficult to traverse during the rainy season. The homes have two rooms: one for sleeping and one for cooking.
6am The team wakes up with the sun, deflates our air mattresses, and folds our blankets. We arrived late last night in order to continue to provide Bolivia’s marginalized populations with lifesaving health care throughout the day.
8am The nurse begins conducting pre-appointment consultations with patients. She weighs the clients, takes their blood pressure, and records their height. The clients then wait to be examined by the doctor.
10am We’re so grateful for the extensive network of community volunteers and health promoters that assists the team. They go door-to-door to remind people of the times the Mobile Health Unit will be in the village/town. This ensures a maximum number of people will be present during the Mobile Health Unit visits.
7am We quickly transform the schoolhouse into a doctor’s office. A former door is turned into an exam bed. Basic medical equipment is sterilized and placed on a clean table. Despite limited resources, every attempt is made to provide high-quality services.
8:30am The doctor begins seeing one client after another. By the end of the day, the mobile health workers will have provided care to around 30 people. For most, it will be the first time they have ever received health care.
1pm Some of the community members kindly prepare special traditional dishes for lunch. Community leaders give speeches and community members do a short performance that focuses on pregnancy, family planning, and violence.
2:30pm After the lunch break, the team returns to the clinic and continues to provide health services. One particularly memorable client was an indigenous Guarani woman with tired eyes, who said that urination caused a burning sensation and her lower abdomen ached. "I'm worried about cervical cancer," says the 45 year-old grandmother of two as she waits to see the doctor. Half an hour later, the woman emerges, relieved. She was in the clear for now, she said. "I didn't even know what a cervix was before the mobile health units started arriving," she adds with an embarrassed half-smile.
7pm Once all of the clients have been seen, the team transforms the classroom space again–this time into a bedroom. They bring their own bedding and inflatable mattresses. If the space they use is not a school, they will often sleep in a church or some other community-gathering place.
The word for ‘hope’ in Guarani, an indigenous language in Bolivia, is moroäro.
Will you help lift the burden from vulnerable communities? Consider funding
a Mobile Health Unit for a day for just $350!