IDRC´s Ecohealth Initiative in Guatemala

Uploaded by ludocontenidos on 21.01.2011

International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
and LUDO Contenidos
BEYOND THE VECTOR Ecosystem approaches and vector borne diseases in Latin America and the Caribbean
Vector Reinfestation Risk Management and Prevention of Chagas Disease
Guatemala was the first country to be declared free from Chagas transmitted by one of the vectors, Rodnius prolixus.
It has been very difficult for countries to eliminate this species.
Still, it can be eliminated with insecticides because it doesn’t live in the forest.
But our bug (Triatoma dimidiata) lives in the forest, it lives in caves and under rocks,
and every year it migrates to houses, attracted by the lights, and if conditions are adequate it reproduces there.
This means that if we continue spraying, we need to spray every year, and this is not what we want.
We want to prevent the bug from reproducing in the houses, even if it gets in.
The village of La Brea was selected because it had already been fumigated several times
and there have always been bugs inside the homes.
-Good afternoon. - Excuse me.
- Please come in. - How are you?
- Fine. - Nice to see you. How have you been?
The traditional construction model here is adobe, or mud,
and in general people build without windows so it is very dark inside the home.
The bugs love this darkness, the humidity, the lack of ventilation
and this is what we are trying to change, although without changing local culture.
If people do not want a window, there will be no window.
We want the house without cracks so that the bug cannot reproduce.
The engineers, who formed part of our multi-disciplinary group,
found that by mixing soil with sand in a certain proportion for plastering the wall, cracks can be avoided.
This is the most effective intervention because we know that spraying a house involves investing human resources, logistics,
and insecticides at a cost of approximately 1000 Quetzales per house.
Meanwhile a house improved like the one behind me, is an investment of roughly 250 Quetzales.
In this community we are working in a tripartite team: the Municipality’s health sector,
the University of San Carlos, and the community itself which contributes labour.
First we mix this earth with sand and then we soak it in the mud and we stick it on like this…
…with the hand.
This method of housing improvement gives the opportunity to community members
to do the improvements themselves.
Then we are considering those three aspects:
economy in maintaining the program, efficacy in the method, and also community participation.
The community itself does the work, and their job is to rework the walls and improve the floor.
What we do in collaboration with the Municipality is to find local materials and transport them to the communities.
First they wanted to see results so we made a model house.
When they saw the model house, and how easy it was to do, they wanted to replicate it.
As President of the community development council, in order to provide an example, I am doing my house over there,
in order to be an example for the community so that other people follow my lead.
The team members from the University guaranteed us that this floor has already been tested and it does not crack.
In order to plaster the wall, first we had to find out who did it, when they did it and why,
we had to do an anthropological study.
We found that it was the women who plastered, and it was done when there was little farm work
or when their family members were coming to visit. It is done for cosmetic reasons
but it is done every year. With the mixes that we are studying at the university, they will not have to replaster even after 5 years.
We are going to make the plaster, we are going to make 2 tins, and we are going to add one in of soil.
The engineers were in charge of studying the local materials in order to prepare a suitable formula to be used.
Then they taught the whole project team, the Ministry of Health representatives, the vector control specialists
and finally the community.
We try and prepare the community for when we will not be here so they can continue the work without us,
and so we look for people who can do this.
This is one of the rooms of my house, the walls are adobe.
Before the project, the walls were not improved in any way and there were many cracks where the bugs could hide.
This is a village where we applied chemicals two or three times
and the problem continued, with high reinfestation indexes.
After the home improvements we have indexes lower than 5%
Women in Central America are very marginalized.
In general, they do not have an income and thus they are susceptible to a lot of manipulation,
and we try to free women a bit from this situation.
In one of the villages, the women themselves proposed building coffee nurseries,
and selling the coffee plants and managing the money themselves.
We only helped a little bit at the beginning by providing seed bags,
and now they are totally independent and sell the coffee special bags to be used as seedbags each year.
The chickens that used to be inside the house, are now kept in a chicken coop.
Keeping them in better conditions improves their production, and not only do community members eat more meat
but they can sell any surplus and this is money that the women earn.
Another aspect of keeping the animals outside is that Tripanosoma Cruzi does not reproduce in birds,
even though the bug is eating the birds’ blood,
it is not going to get infected with the Tripanosoma Cruzi which is the cause of Chagas disease.
Besides the home improvement, that is, eliminating the possibility of the bug growing inside the house,
people also benefited from having fruit trees.
We are already enjoying the fruits of some of those trees,
therefore I believe that not only the health aspect is improved but also the household´s economies.
The ecosystem approach means trying to live with the bug without getting sick.
Originally, the animals lived in the forest, the people in their villages
and transmission did not take place because we had good forests.
What we have to teach the people is to maintain an ecosystem like this, and to take good care of it,
so they can use it to collect wood, and so the animals can live there and bugs can live there,
so that they do not reach the houses.
The bug is in the forest and the people in their clean, well built homes.
We want people to live better. This is the holistic approach, development for health.