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Improving the prevention, control and elimination of six infectious diseases in the Colombian Amazon

The project seeks to support the prevention, control and elimination of six unhealthy infectious diseases - scabies, pediculosis, geohelminthiasis, Cutaneous Larva Migrans, tungiasis and ocular trachoma - in 113 indigenous communities, mainly in scattered rural areas of the rivers Atabapo, Inírida, Guaviare, and Uva, and neighbouring areas in the departments of Guainía and Vichada, in the Amazonian region of Colombia. These territories were prioritized because they present the highest prevalence of the diseases in the country.

The inhabitants of these departments are mostly indigenous, belonging to the Puinave, Sikuani, Curripaco, Yeral, Piapoco, Piaroa, Cubeo, Baniba and Saliba peoples. They live in small communities located on the banks of rivers in dispersed rural areas. The population is young: 12% are under the age of 5, and 48% are under 18. Approximately 49% of the population are women.

Guainía and Vichada have a very low population density. In addition to geographical isolation and the high percentage of unsatisfied basic needs, this area has suffered the consequences of the armed conflict. Access is only by river or air from the municipal headwaters. Most of the inhabitants lack access to basic health services outside of the capitals. Morbidity and mortality rates from preventable diseases, such as diarrhoea, are well above national rates.

Guainía and Vichada are among the most affected by trachoma and the prevalence of Follicular Trachoma in children aged 1 to 9 is 23% and 15.5%, respectively. Approximately 95% of the population has geohelminthiasis.

The project, which is part of the "Comprehensive and Interprogrammatic National Plan for the Prevention, Control and Elimination of Neglected Infectious Diseases 2013-2017" aims to achieve  coverage through the massive administration of azithromycin and albendazole in 113 communities along the rivers of Inírida, Guaviare, Atabapo, Uva and neighbouring waterways, in order to contribute to the control of trachoma and geohelminthiasis.

The aim is to achieve this through the execution of health promotion and disease prevention activities via an intercultural approach, with an emphasis on the 6 priority diseases identified in the 113 communities established along the aforementioned rivers.

The project is being implemented by "Synergies-Strategic Alliances for Health and Social Development", with resources from Direct Relief and Probitas, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Department of Guainía, the Secretariat of Municipal Health of Inírida, the Hospital Manuel Elkin Patarroyo de Inírida, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, and the local indigenous organizations.

The direct beneficiaries are the 12,159 inhabitants of 113 communities located in scattered rural areas.

The indirect ones are at least six major institutions in the health sector contributing to the attainment of the goals for the control and elimination of the diseases targeted. The communities bordering the project area will also benefit because the transmission of all the diseases fought will be reduced.