In a Peruvian town, local women lead the fight against dengue

A mural in Batán Grande funded by Oxfam partner CEPRODA MINGA and painted by local youth as part of a Dengue virus prevention campaign
A mural in Batán Grande, funded by Oxfam partner CEPRODA MINGA and painted by local youth, helps to promote a local Dengue virus prevention campaign

In early 2015, Batán Grande, a town in the Peruvian region of Lambayeque, became a hotspot for dengue - a painful and sometimes fatal disease carried by mosquitos.

Oxfam partner CEPRODA MINGA helped local community members launch an effective public health campaign.

Elizabeth Cano, humanitarian coordinator for Oxfam in Peru, stands near a mural about dengue prevention. (The mural was funded by CEPRODA MINGA and painted by local youth in Batán Grande.)Elizabeth Cano, humanitarian coordinator for Oxfam in Peru.

“Oxfam’s role in emergencies like this isn’t to rush in with staff and supplies,” says Elizabeth Cano, humanitarian coordinator for Oxfam in Peru. “It’s to build on the strengths that are already here.”

Oxfam partner CEPRODA MINGA worked with local residents to create and train community health committees, carry out a door-to-door awareness campaign, distribute scrub brushes and mosquito nets, and organize trash-hauling days to reduce mosquito breeding grounds.

A community leader from Batán Grande, Peru, and a representative of Oxfam partner, CEPRODA MINGA, at a meeting about dengue prevention.Cathrin Roque, community leader in Batán Grande (left), and Rosa Rivero of CEPRODA MINGA at a meeting about dengue prevention.

Women stepped up into leadership.

“Women are the most affected by dengue, because they care for those who are sick. Even if they are sick, women cook for and take care of their husbands. We have no time to rest, no time to be sick,” explains community leader Cathrin Roque.  

A mother poses for a photo as she wraps her son in a mosquito net as a precaution against dengue fever, PeruPamela Santisteban, her son, and their mosquito net. Santisteban is the vice president of her community committee.

At first, community members resisted the leadership of women - especially young women like Pamela Santisteban (above). They would laugh at her dengue-prevention efforts, she says, “but then they started getting sick, and the laughter stopped.”

There is no agreement about the number of dengue cases at the height of the outbreak in Batán Grande, but it was probably between 78 and 200 in March of 2015. A year later, after an intensive public health campaign led by local women, the official number of cases was down to two.

Rosa Rivero of CEPRODA MINGA (left) talks with committee member Violeta Anton de la Cruz of Batán Grande.Rosa Rivero of CEPRODA MINGA (left) talks with committee member Violeta Anton de la Cruz of Batán Grande.

The impact of the campaign on local women and their capacity to lead in emergencies may reach far beyond the dengue outbreak.

“Thanks to CEPRODA MINGA, I feel I’m well prepared and ready to help and lead,” says committee member Violeta Anton de la Cruz. “I don’t have to stay quiet, because I’m fighting for our rights.”

 

Read the full story about this locally led emergency response.

Photos: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam