Volunteer Doctors from UK working in Iquitos
Written by Rowan Oliver & Clare Bunyan
from the University of Manchester School of Medicine

When we first arrived here in Iquitos 5 weeks ago - stepping off the plane into 43 degrees C heat - to work with Honorary British Consul in Loreto, Joe Plumb, (also Projects Coordinator of The Peru Mission-Registered UK Charity No 1145812), we knew that life was going to be a lot different to what we were used to. The lifestyle here is that of a laid back disposition, consisting of afternoon siestas, multiple showers, and no great rush to accomplish any task. I suppose this needs to be the case in the sweltering heat and high humidity. Since arriving here on our elective placement as part of our studies at the University of Manchester School of Medicine we seem to have adjusted to the lifestyle well - especially the afternoon rests.

We filled our days working at a local food kitchen for children - The Santa Rita de Casia Food Kitchen, Santa Rosa de Lima Old Peoples Home, El Huambrillo Home for At-Risk Children and children from families living in extreme poverty, the Parish of Señor de Los Milagros, Morona Cocha and "Algo Bello Para Dios" (a centre for people living with HIV/AIDS) doing health checks on the residents of these projects.

This has been somewhat of a challenge considering it all has to be done in Spanish! I can't believe how much our Spanish has improved. We have a list of medical questions to ask all of the residents, we weigh them and take their heights and we examine each person.

We have come across common flu, coughs and fevers, throat, stomach and urinary infections, nutrition issues, skin disorders, many cases of parasites, a couple of suspected cases of dengue fever (who we sent to access the 7am-1pm Dengue Programme at the Regional Hospital) and other random cases of arthritis, anxiety, headaches, mild dehydration (which can simply be remedied by drinking more liquids) and sickness and diarrhea.

The “Santa Rita de Casia” Food Kitchen which we worked at is run for children when they are not at school. At the food kitchen the children get extra tuition and a healthy meal with juice and water - and dessert if budget stretches that far. This may be the only meal the kids get all day. The owner, Gabi, has a tight budget to work with and needs as much financial help as she can get. We've spent some mornings in 'Hospital Regional de Loreto', working in the emergency department and general medicine. The emergency department was extremely busy, with many cases of dengue coming through the door on a daily basis.

The Regional Hospital of Loreto

We've done a variety of activities on our days off including visiting Quistococha and Pilpintuwasi, using the local hotel's swimming pool, and just wandering around town/going for drinks or dinner on the river in the evening. With a population of around 500,000 - 700,000, we have embraced the bustling atmosphere in and around town, and scooting around town in a moto-carro (taxi) is great fun - although occasionally a nail-biting experience. A 3 day/2 night jungle trip with Explorama tours introduced us to life in the rainforest. Here we had the chance to fish for piranhas (and eat them for dinner!), observe fauna and flora in its natural environment and just relax by the pool or in the 'hammock house'. During our last week here we visited Nauta to conduct a health campaign and then spent 3 afternoons in San Juan, carrying out medical checks on people in 3 barrios of the district.

Health Checks in San Juan District.

Although it has been challenging adapting to the lifestyle and climate of Iquitos,
we're starting to feel at home in this busy jungle city.
Thanks to Iquitos and it's warm, joyful people for making us feel extremely welcome!

A relaxing evening

Visiting the Yaguas across the Nanay river and up the Momon river

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