Amizade has been working in the Brazilian Amazon since it was founded in 1994. Amizade’s community partnerships are based in the city of Santarém, which is a large urban center in state of Pará. The Brazilian Ministry of Health has divided the state of Pará into districts to better organize healthcare delivery and to manage federal resources. Santarém is the regional headquarters for the 9th district, which oversees the healthcare needs of over one million individuals. Santarém has over 250,000 residents, and the rest of the population lives in small communities along the Amazon River and its tributaries, the Tapajos, Trombetas, and Aripixuns. Thousands of underserved communities face glaring economic challenges, limited access to clean water, inadequate health education, and profound barriers to preventative health and dental care. Long distances and difficulty of travel are compounded by a shortage of doctors, nurses, medical resources and supplies. In many cases whole communities are unable to seek lifesaving treatments or health education on preventative methods for disease control.
To help bridge the access gap, many private and non-profit organizations intervene by developing programs for targeting underserved regions. In 2006, the Dutch NGO, Terre des Hommes (TdH), designed and built an advanced fluvial medical clinic called the Abaré. The boat is fully equipped with medical exam rooms, dental equipment, laboratories, advanced medical technology, and living quarters for health practitioners. The boat is also powerfully engineered and is capable of long-range health trips. After an extensive needs assessment and capacity analysis, TdH identified Santarém as the most appropriate port city for the Abaré. To operationalize the boat, TdH works with a complex set of partners who organize the health teams and outreach that take place on board.
In 2013, Amizade began pairing health science students with Brazilian health teams aboard the Abaré for fair-trade learning programs that are designed to help support local stakeholders and provide an experiential learning outlet for students. Amizade students and volunteers have worked and learned alongside Brazilian health professionals on topics such as; tropical diseases, public health, rural healthcare delivery, dentistry, family medicine, HIV/AIDs programs and managing patient flow, among other challenging and relevant topics. Students participating on these projects are able to:
1) Shadow Nurses and Physicians.
2) Assist local dentists (D.D.S students only)
3) Volunteer in the HIV lab.
4) Learn how to manage triage.
5) Conduct epidemiological surveys.
6) Participate on a vaccination team
The partnership between Amizade and TdH has blossomed and grown tremendously. In 2014 Amizade began assisting TdH in the development of an inter-institutional healthcare program that aims to maximize the use of the Abaré in bringing much-needed health care to the region. Amizade is helping TdH to develop the funding base necessary to sustain the Abaré and to continue providing health services and health education in the lower Amazon River Basin.