The GLI-Ecuador program started in 2012 with the initial collaboration of ACNUR. In 2015, however, project management was transferred to OXFAM Italia with whom the Probitas Foundation signed a collaboration agreement. The objective of the project is to develop an integral focus for the healthcare needs of vulnerable Columbian populations, located at the borders with Ecuador, fleeing the confrontations and volatile situations of their country. GLI-Ecuador required an urgent intervention due to an oil spill in the San Miguel River which affected access to drinking water and provoked serious public health situation. At present, GLI-Ecuador is in its fourth phase and is promoting other integral healthcare programs.
Ecuador has the largest population of refugees in Latin America most of whom come from Columbia with which it shares a border. In fact, armed conflict has been affecting the poorest zones of the country for decades.
Around 40% of the refugees live in regions that are isolated and barely developed. One of these is the province of Sucumbíos which has suffered considerable environmental damage due to the exploitation of oil resources. The population has limited access to healthcare and educational services and, moreover, lack of employment hinders them from becoming self-sufficient and integrating into mainstream society.
GLI-Ecuador is completely aligned with the Ministry for Public Health in Ecuador. It serves as a reference for the policy that the government wishes to implement with respect to reinforcing the laboratory network. The project has concentrated its activity on three health centers: Puerto del Carmen in Putumayo, with which the Foundation has collaborated since 2012, Tarapoa, and San Valentín.
The objectives that the Foundation hopes to attain with the implementation of the GLI are: an improvement in the diagnostic capacities of the laboratories of the health centers located near to the border with Columbia through the reinforcing of infrastructures, laboratory equipment, and personnel training. Additionally, it aims to offer healthcare to the most vulnerable collectives with waterborne health brigades in areas difficult to access.
During the first phase a diagnosis was performed after various months of research on a joint mission with all the partners, and the following needs were identified:
- An increase in the purchase of reagents for diagnosis, better equipment, an implementation of an IT system for laboratory management, the construction of a room for blood collection, and the training of personnel in specific techniques in the Puerto del Carmen healthcare center.
The need for improvement in the laboratory infrastructures at the Tarapoa healthcare center was detected: a water distiller and hematological counter were required.
- An automatic spectrophotometer and water distiller were also necessary at the Abdón Calderón center.
During the second phase of the project the infrastructures and installations at the Puerto del Carmen center were improved and the laboratory refurbished.
- The infrastructures have been improved and amplified.
- The water supply has been improved.
- The electricity supply has been renovated with a power generator.
- Some basic areas have been set up: a waiting room and blood collection zone.
- The laboratory has been equipped with some devices.
With respect to the third phase, action has been taken regarding the training and capacity-building of the local personnel with the aim of improving specific techniques and creating future self-management.
- Training in good laboratory practice and handling of samples.
- Basic analytic procedures and laboratory management.
- Interpretation of results and management of biological waste.
In addition, during the fourth phase other transversal programs which affect the health of the communities have been promoted.
- In order to reach populations with difficult access, a mobile health unit and waterborne brigades have been created.
- Two river barges have been repaired and prepared for medical campaigns.
- Processes of community participation with young people and sex workers have been started.
- Health education activities have been carried out for vulnerable populations.
- One ambulance at the "Unión y Progreso" sub-centre has been equipped as a mobile clinic.
The number of analyses performed by centers has risen by 40% following this initiative to support the laboratories.