SEATTLE — In 2015, health officials reported that Paraguay mosquitoes were infected with the Zika virus and spreading it to residents. Efforts are being made to counter the problems and recent years have shown plans for health improvements in Paraguay.
In the same year as the Zika outbreak, Tigo (a branch of the Millicom company) forged an alliance with Paraguay’s Health Ministry to bring hospitals in Paraguay online. The alliance would provide the country’s hospitals with access to clearer guidelines on how to best treat patients. Tigo’s plan would also provide specialist access to many Paraguayans who geographically could not obtain it before.
Asuncion toy stores closed one morning in 2015 in observance of the fact that four Paraguayan newborns had died every day from preventable illnesses for the past 20 years. The toys sat in the store window, dressed in black with a message that read “A baby changes your life, a death also.” This pressured Paraguay’s president to allocate $1.5 million toward the country’s healthcare services.
Dainus Pūras, a special rapporteur for the U.N., visited Paraguay from Sept. 23 to Oct. 6, 2015 to assess the country’s health conditions. Pūras found that widespread discrimination, limited access to healthcare and poverty were Paraguay’s main contributors to poor health conditions for some of the country’s people. Pūras added that Paraguay’s government needs to expedite the approval of laws against all discriminatory practices.
In 2016, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) opened a meeting on health and agriculture concerns. Paraguay’s highest authorities attended the meeting as well, focusing on topics of disease outbreaks and foodborne illnesses.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is implementing projects that will help Paraguay’s government carry out food safety net strategies. Two WFP projects focus on improving food security for Paraguay’s vulnerable populations, along with addressing nourishment concerns for children less than five years old. Efforts like this make health improvements in Paraguay possible.
Alquimia S.A., a company founded in 1995, is currently helping Paraguayan farmers produce organic crops. This allows Paraguayans to avoid using hazardous chemicals when growing their crops, reducing the risk of poisoning to consumers. Also in place are strategies to help Paraguay’s meat producing industries reduce harmful emissions.
In addition to food, water was another health concern for Paraguay in past years, particularly in wells. Julian Marecos, president of a rural community’s water board, presently works with four people to supervise the water supply. Today, 94 percent of rural Paraguayans have access to safe water.
Many Paraguayan homes do not have bathrooms, leaving affected residents to share outdoor latrines. Habitat for Humanity is working to install bathrooms in those homes, reducing the risks of water diseases and other medical concerns. Nearly 100 Paraguayan families are helping the organization make these improvements.
These various sources of aid could greatly impact public health in Paraguay. If efforts are successful, infections such as the Zika virus will be greatly reduced, and clean water and food will be available to an increasing number of Paraguayans. These processes will take time but are surely achievable.
– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar