In 1995 the Amazon Association began working on the building of a health post in the community of Sao Pedro, Rio Jauaperí, Brazilian Amazon.
The Association owns the private Xixuaú -Xiparinã Nature Reserve on two tributaries of the Rio Jauaperí and the aim of the health post was to provide basic assistance for the approximately 600 Caboclo inhabitants of the area, including the 30 who live inside the 172,000 hectares of the reserve.
Initial expenses were met by a donation from the Gaia Trust of Denmark. These costs included the building of the post, some basic furnishings and the purchase of an outboard for transportation. However the grant from the Gaia Trust was not sufficient to terminate the work and get the health post functioning. In 1996 the Association received a grant from an Italian bank, the Cassa Rurale di Castel Goffredo, which enabled us to terminate the post, buy medical supplies and equipment and pay for an Italian nurse to come and run it for 6 months. At this point we began a project with the Department of Infectious Diseases of the University of Siena in Italy who put the nurse through a course in tropical pathology, particularly the identification and treatment of malaria, and provide technical assistance on an on going basis.
The nurse arrived in the Rio Jauaperí in the beginning of August 1996 when the health post was inaugurated. His arrival coincided with the outbreak of the worst ever malaria epidemic the region has suffered. In the course of the next six months he carried out close to 600 malaria tests, 400 of which were positive, and treated the people suffering from the disease. He also began a campaign against intestinal parasites and started medical records for all the inhabitants of the river. The local health authorities, the FNS (Fundação Nacional de Saude) declared the health post an official malaria treatment base and also began contributing certain basic medical supplies.
The health post continued functioning until the end of January 1997 when the nurse returned to Italy and the Association ran out of funds to staff it.
January coincides with the low water period in this area of the Amazon when malaria diminishes naturally, however for the first time ever it did not entirely disappear and a number of cases were reported until the month of April when. with the rising water levels it returned in force. In May the region suffered an epidemic of falciparum malaria and a number of deaths were only avoided due to the presence of some members of the Association who managed to provide transportation to Manaus where those suffering the worst effects were treated in hospital.
However it became apparent that the coming high water season was going to be a crucial time for malaria and the presence of a person trained to combat this disease would be indispensable. At the same time it was decided that the only way to deal with the problem in the long term would be to train a local person as a paramedic. The individual most suitable was chosen, the FNS of Manaus agreed that after six months of training with the Italian nurse this person would become a Rural Health Agent and receive a state salary to run the post. In the meantime a project was started with the Universities of Salerno and Siena in Italy for the study and identification of medicinal plants in the region and for combating malaria. The first trip in this project, financed by the Italian-South American Institute of Rome, left for the area at the end of July.
The Italian nurse returned to the Jauaperí in early July, for a further six months . The health mission by the two Italian Universities and Embrapa of Roraima took place during the first two weeks of August. The malaria emergency was confirmed and blood samples were taken from 400 inhabitants of the Rio Jauaperí. Of the 400 people examined it was revealed that since June this year there have been around 430 cases of malaria, an average of more than one illness per person. The samples are being analysed at the FNS laboratory in Manaus and reports and recommendations will soon be published both in Brazil and in Italy.
The University of Salerno and Embrapa of Roraima collected samples of medicinal and food plants which are being examined at INPA in Manaus. Again reports are forthcoming.
The health post is receiving a donation of another microscope from Canada, which will be available as soon as transportation details have been arranged.