Medical examinations, gynaecological and dental consultations as well as assistance for the elderly are just some of the services offered by the Order of Malta’s Peruvian Association on its Hospital Ship. In 2014 alone, some 50,000 procedures (mainly in the healthcare sector) were carried out on the ship sailing along the Rio Napo, that rises in Ecuador and flows into the Amazon after passing through Peru.
“The distrust shown by the indigenous communities, so often deluded in the past, was one of the main obstacles the project had to overcome. But after the initial examinations it was the heads of the local communities who encouraged their people to participate in the campaigns,” says Eduardo José Montenegro y Soria, hospitaller of the Order of Malta’s Peruvian Association and father of the project. He was the one who built up relations with the local institutions – such as the Peruvian Navy which provided the ship and the Ministry of Women and Social Development – and ensured that the project took off.
The Hospital Ship does not only offer healthcare services but also meets other needs of peoples living in rural areas who have little access to services and facilities. For instance, births can be registered on the Peruvian Association’s 42 metre-ship and the installation of a cash dispenser means that some categories of workers can also collect their salaries on board. Thanks to this initiative, teachers in local schools are not longer forced to leave their classes and make long journeys to reach banks in the towns.
Some 5000 indigenous peoples living on the banks of the Rio Napo are involved in the project. In the future, the Order of Malta’s Peruvian Association wants to extend its assistance to all the Peruvian peoples in the Amazonia, using as many as 12 hospital ships.