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The Need for Healthcare in Peru


Citizens that live in poverty suffer from a multitude of diseases, but they do not have enough money or even the means of transportation to receive proper treatment. This makes the need for healthcare in Peru a top priority for missionaries and non-profit organizations.

Peru’s economy has been booming since the global financial crisis years back, but their government does not spend enough of its money on health care. Government spending on healthcare in Peru is about 5.5 percent, which is much lower than the United States at 17.1 percent, according to Healthcare Economist.

Healthcare In Peru

Peru is a country with approximately 31 million people, but MedLife reports that one-third of the population does not have access to basic health care. In rural parts of the country where poverty is more prominent, healthcare is even more inaccessible. The city of Cusco, which is the main destination for tourists, does not provide adequate healthcare services for citizens, so people are forced to travel to neighboring towns.

Peru Health reported that the leading cause of death among citizens in Peru is respiratory disease resulting from influenza and pneumonia with an average of 17,399 deaths per year. Most of the time these ailments are easily curable, but because of lack of access to proper healthcare, citizens in Peru are more vulnerable to these types of diseases.

HIV/AIDS is the fifth cause of death in Peru. It is estimated that there are 74,000 citizens in Peru currently living with HIV/AIDS and an estimated 5,046 people die from the disease each year. Tuberculosis is also a major threat to Peruvians, causing about 2,300 deaths a year, according to Peru Health. Because of high contagion rates, hospitals are likely to turn away patients if there are not enough safe rooms available. 

Peru has one of the highest death rates for pregnant women in the Americas, according to Amnesty International. Indigenous pregnant women, who are living in poverty, are being denied access to basic healthcare. They don’t have access to emergency care or information about maternal healthcare, and there are not enough medical doctors who speak native indigenous languages making it even more of a challenge to receive healthcare in Peru.

Volunteers Around the World

Volunteers Around the World (VAW) is a non-profit organization that strives to provide medical and dental treatment, clean water and health education to citizens living in poverty in different countries around the world. VAW opened its medical outreach chapter in 2015 to serve the need for healthcare in Peru.

Senior at Augusta University, Zach Sweatman, went on a medical mission trip with Volunteers Around the World to Urcos, Peru. Sweatman and the other volunteers set up a clinic every day with an intake, vitals, consultation and pharmacy section in order to help with the need for healthcare in Peru. Sweatman said that the team provided free healthcare and pharmaceuticals to 100 patients every day for two weeks.

According to Sweatman, Urcos is a small farming and mining town about an hour and a half away from Cusco, where the closest hospital is. Citizens don’t have enough money for transportation to get medical assistance when they fall ill, so they have to either fight it off with their immune system or, in severe cases, die. Sweatman also added that sanitary conditions in the area are a large part of the problem because of the parasites and other bacteria in the water.

Even though Peru is mostly a middle-class nation, the parts of the country that are still poverty-stricken suffer from inaccessible healthcare. Missionaries like Sweatman and Volunteers Around the World travel to Peru each year to help improve the healthcare conditions in the country.

– McKenzie Hamby
Photo: Flickr