Health Issues in Bolivia

Malnutrition is crippling Bolivia, with close to five million citizens unable to fulfill even the most basic requirements. Malnutrition poses the greatest risk to pregnant women and young children, and in Bolivia, it is these groups that malnutrition unfortunately hits the hardest. An overwhelming 25 percent of Bolivian children under the age of 3 have or currently suffer from malnutrition. Sadly, the rate of malnutrition for children in the poorest households is a staggering 40 percent.

Furthermore, "among Bolivian women of child-bearing age, about 12 percent are so short (less than 145 cm) that they are at risk of having an underweight baby; and 27 percent of women of child-bearing age are so anemic that they will probably pass iron deficiency to the unborn child…lack of sanitation and inappropriate feeding of children under two are the principal causes of malnutrition in Bolivia" (World Bank, 2002). Largely due to malnutrition, infant, child, and maternal mortality rates in Bolivia are the second highest in the hemisphere.

In addition to the desperate need to address malnutrition, Bolivia has a high prevalence of tuberculosis, malaria, chagas, leishmaniasis, dengue fever, and yellow fever. Although HIV/AIDS has not reached epidemic proportions in Bolivia, the occurrence of HIV is rising in Cochabamba among the population of people aged 15–24. Currently, 22 percent of registered and diagnosed HIV cases in Bolivia are within the 15–24 age range. HIV also poses a large threat to the homosexual community in Cochabamba.

Public health education promoting the awareness and prevention of such diseases as HIV/AIDS, chagas, and malaria is urgently needed in the Cochabamba community. In addition, community education about health-related issues, such as sanitation practices and birth control methods, cry for more attention. General access to health care also needs expanding, especially in rural communities where health services are extremely limited. As for the hospitals and health clinics that do exist, many of them require more funding and drastic improvements.

FSD works with local health clinics and hospitals to expand their resources, and assist them in providing health education, medical treatment, counseling, and immunizations to at-risk populations in the Cochabamba community. FSD conducts research in a number of areas to gain an increased understanding of the efficacy of current health initiatives and to acquire information about current health crises. With enhanced health services, and increased public knowledge, the hope is that the citizens of Cochabamba and surrounding rural villages will have the tools to properly address major health issues and improve their quality of life.

Read more about Health programs and opportunities initiated by our Community Partners in Bolivia.

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