The First Popular Garifuna Hospital of Honduras

Pastors For Peace has been the U.S. promoter and pre-screener of students for the Latin America School of Medicine in Cuba. We have also visited several of the communities mentioned in Honduras reporting on human rights. -Rick

 

Ciriboya
Garifuna community is located in the municipality of Iriona, Department
of Colón, about 2 hours on a dirt road from the capital city of Tocoa.
It is in this community that the first Garifuna People's Hospital of
Honduras was strategically built and was declared real and intangible
Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The
creation of this project is a response to a need for basic healthcare
and has its beginnings in the solidarity of the Cuban medical brigades,
whom arrived in Honduran territory after the devastation of Hurricane
Mitch in 1998.

 

But the concept of solidarity of the Cuban people and Government went
beyond the mere permanent incursion of these medical teams in several
countries of Central America, the Caribbean and Africa. By this means,
the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba is created. This
admirable scientific and educational project currently favors students
from 24 countries, 19 from Latin America, 4 from Africa and the United
States, which are formed with the idea of returning to their hometowns
to reproduce the Integral Health in their communities.

It
is in this context that in 1999 the Garifuna students who were studying
medicine in Cuba, begin the project “Luagu Hatuadi Waduheñu”, “For The
Health of Our People” as spoken in Garifuna. And since 2001, prior to
the creation of the Hospital, the medical brigades of Cuban students
provided integral health and medical assistance in communities such as,
Santa Rosa de Aguan, Tornabé, Triunfo de la Cruz, Santa Fe, Guadalupe,
Limon, Punta Piedra, Cusuna, Ciriboya, Iriona Viejo, San José de la
Punta, Sangrelaya and Cocalito.

A
few years later in 2005, the construction of the First Garifuna
People's Hospital of Honduras is started, based upon the idea of
community hospitals in remote communities such as the Mosquitia and
Colón, with the addition of health personnel who will graduate each year
from the ELAM. This project was conducted under the direction of Dr.
Luther Castillo Harry, a Garifuna and a graduate of the first class of
the ELAM.

For
the creation of this hospital, the help of the Garifuna community of
Ciriboya was fundamental, they donated the land where the Hospital is
located, and decided to make use of socially useful work (community
work) to carry out this project by a community assembly and as part of
the promotion of comprehensive health. In addition to local support and
national and international grants (organizations such as AFL-CIO,
AHMEN), and resources such as building materials and medicines, it is
important to emphasize the solidarity of the ELAM through permanent
specialized human resources (brigades medical program), and the donation
of medical equipment.

Ciriboya
Hospital provides completely free medical services, in spanish and
garifuna languages, it also has a medical staff from different Garifuna
communities (formed through a scholarship program), permitting a better
doctor-patient relationship. This hospital consists of: medical
consultation (internal and external) room, dentistry, nursing,
laboratory, pharmacy (medicine is provided free of charge), delivery
room, postpartum and postoperative room, one observation room (three
beds), one small operating and waiting room, emergency care 24 hours, as
well as ultrasound services and other tests that go side by side with
the implementation of preventive community health programs.

For
the administration of funds and donations the Luagu Hatuadi Waduheñu
Foundation was created with Dr. Luther Castillo as its Coordinator. The
foundation is responsible for promoting the health project for our
People through negotiations and connections to other organizations or
associations at national, regional and international levels, promoting
health with a comprehensive humanistic approach, solidarity and
scientific progress – teaching that comes from the local communities.

It
is important to mention that this project has been carried out
alternately, which means that human resource management, financial,
material and medical equipment for the establishment and maintenance,
has been independent of government aid, highlighting the failure of the
State of Honduras in ensuring the health of its citizens, as stipulated
in the Constitution and International Human Rights proclamations. Far
from leading and supporting projects of national health, interests of
small groups within the government prevent such projects from being
carried out because, as of June 28, 2009 after the oligarchy-military
coup; the Garifuna People's Hospital and its staff were directly
attacked by the repressive military-police apparatus with alleged
accusations, without evidence,  of the possession of weapons. This
action represents no more than a political strategy to truncate the
tremendous processes of power and popular organization.

In
addition to this unfortunate act, since the coup in June 2009 the
Government of Honduras suspended the agreement that allowed the payment
of wages of the Cuban Medical Brigade, which served as recognition for
their specialized work and a focus on the human being. But this
abandonment of the contract has not stopped the project objective, which
is to provide comprehensive qualified and free medical care to isolated
communities of Colón and La Mosquitia. This work is carried out by the
effort of a group of 10 Cubans and 11 Garifunas (including doctors,
specialists, nurses and technicians), and the entire Ciriboya community.

Resulting
from the opportunity to meet this community, we can say that male and
female patients receiving care at this hospital feel very happy to be
well received, with no physician-patient barrier. Most patients make the
most of the opportunity take exams or ultrasounds, which are free;
unlike other health centers that have no such services or where people
have to go to Tocoa, where they are charged an overly expensive amount.
That is why the influx of patients from other communities (many very
distant), are being increasingly felt. Such is the case of Edilberto
53-year-old native of Santa Rosa de Aguan, who told us that he had moved
to the community of Ciriboya because he needed the security that the
hospital provides him and his family. This is just one example, but it
gives rise to a challenge, “increase in demand versus limited
resources”, which not only concerns the Hospital and staff, but also us
as individuals and as Hondurans, because, as the project says:”Luagu
Hatuadi Waduheñu”, For The Health Of Our People.

René Hernández, militant of Organización Política Los Necios

Ciriboya, Honduras. October 2010

 

 

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