On July 1st, the ‘small two women-wandering-clinic’ finished its month’s work in the urban community of Jhon Hocking – I’ve always thought this community should be spelt John Hawking but Jhon Hocking is how it appears on the street signs.
The ‘small two women-wandering-clinic’ is led by two exceptional and dedicated women. One, Carolina Mahua, comes from a well-known Shipibo family with an important shamanic lineage. She is an expert in traditional plant medicines – knowing which plant remedies to give, and how to make them, to people suffering from illnesses. The other, Nine Uhlich, is a German midwife and homeopath who has been living in Peru six months a year for the last five years.
Seeing these two women work together is a great privilege. They both have the gift of being able to give a highly focused and compassionate attention to the people they are treating. For many of the people they are treating, this in itself is deeply therapeutic – as they are used to being ignored and/or discriminated against if they attend one of the State run health centers.
There is, furthermore, a tangible mutual respect and liking between them, which the people they treat can feel. They collaborate easily and naturally together to offer the most appropriate health intervention, be it a Western homeopathic or a traditional plant remedy or a combination of both. Both learn from one another.
Whilst working in Jhon Hawking, for most of the month, Carolina was suffering from a swollen knee and could not walk easily. This meant that for most of the time there, rather than the clinic being mobile and going from house to house as it had been in the previous community, the clinic was held in Carolina’s house, which is in a central location in the community.
Unlike Bena Jema which is an exclusively Shipibo community, the population of Jhon Hawking is more mixed with about half of its population Shipibo and half mestizo (mixed race).
Of course, Nina and Carolina were not going to offer free treatment to just the Shipibos. Apart from being ethically wrong, it would have been hugely stupid in terms of promoting and maintaining good community relations between the Shipibos and the mestizos.
In fact, many mestizos, as well as Shipibos came to Carolina’s house, looking for treatment. This was so successful that, in the last week of their work, they were asked to treat the families of a number of mestizo patients who live in the nearby community of Tushmo.
This was the second pilot project of one month working in two different urban communities. The first project in May was located in the Shipibo community of Bena Jema. So far, results have been very positive. They are clear individual cases where people have made major recoveries – to give three examples, in the words of Nine:
“There was a woman very ill with diabetes. She had been treated regularly with allopathic remedies, but unfortunately they didn’t help. So we stepped in with homeopathics and plant medicine and a lot of advice from Carolina’s own experience of recovering from diabetes, and she recovered. I personally think that she also recovered because we really cared for her.
Then there was a man in his 60’s who couldn’t walk for one year because of his knees. We treated him with homeopathics and plant medicine and he now is nearly without pain. He never saw a doctor because he couldn’t afford it.
There was also an old woman who had diarrhea for one year, since two months with blood. We treated her with homeopathics and plant drops for diarrhea and later on with plant medicine. The diarrhea vanished quickly and she recovered well.”
We are still collecting more detailed statistics and will be doing follow-up work in both communities next year in order to have more information about longer-term treatment outcomes.
In the first pilot project in the community of Bena Jema, where more of the statistics have now been compiled, 140 people were given high-quality individual attention over the period of one month. Around 60 children in the primary school were treated for parasites using plant medicines, and the same plant medicine for parasites was distributed freely to many other people in the community.
At least 200 people have been treated, therefore, in Bena Jema, in one month. And perhaps the most extraordinary fact about this project is that this has all been accomplished at the cost of $500 USD. This shows that this kind of grass roots work can be both highly skilled and highly economic.
Nine has now just returned Germany, where she will continue to work on the statistics and medical records from this work. She will be retuning to Peru early next year when we plan to continue this project, both doing follow-up work in the two communities of Bena Jema and Jhon Hawking and also beginning work in three other communities.
This work offers a window into the state of health of poor communities – which no other organization has, especially given the level of government neglect of these urban indigenous communities – and there is much to be concerned about.
The main illnesses that have been found are:
- Problems with the gall bladder, infection of the gall bladder
- Skin problems (rashes, eczema, allergies)
- Infection of the urine bladder or the whole system
- Pain in the kidney region, infection of the kidneys
Additionally, the lack of adequate hygiene and drainage in the urban communities makes for terrible sanitary conditions. Many people live in the same house and diseases spread rapidly from house to house and between family members. This is one reason why we are keen to install dry compost toilets in these communities. So far, we have installed these ‘eco-latrinas’, as they are called here, in nearly half the houses in Bena Jema, which is 60 families.
Many people living in these communities are living in extreme poverty. This leads them to have poor diets and problems associated with malnutrition. We already have an in-depth dietary study done by a nutritionist who worked with us for one year where she analyzed the dietary intake and nutritional intake in three Shipibo communities, close to the city of Pucallpa.
She found that the traditional diet of fish, fruit yucca and plátano (green bananas), complemented by the occasional hunting of animals, in the rural communities had been replaced by a more Western diet of processed foods high in sugar, salt and carbohydrates. This led her, in the study, to make predictions about the kinds of illnesses generated by this diet.
What we are seeing in these two communities in the kinds of illnesses that are manifest there such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems, is exactly what the nutritional study would suggest.
Please help support this work. You can make a donation of $500 USD here, which will fund this work in one Shipibo community for an entire month.
Dr Paul Roberts, Intercultural Education Director, Alianza Arkana