Beyond the End of the World
Sometimes it seems like I live at the end of the world. No internet. No phone. Not very much interaction with the outside world. But recent trips to Minasccasa make my town seem like a bustling place.
Minasccasa is an outlying village of Quisuarpampa, a 6 hour hike farther into the mountains. It rains and hails year round and has such a harsh climate that nothing but clumps of desert grass grow. Llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas graze in the surrounding hills. People live in small rock huts called chosas that are spread throughout the hills, often more than an hour walk from neighbors. There is no electricity, no running water, and very limited access to food, healthcare, and education.
Kids in Minasccasa smile with dried, cracked, and bleeding cheeks because of the cold wind. Adolescent girls often drop-out of school in 6th grade because their parents won’t send them to Quisuarpampa for high school. Yet somehow these girls don’t exist in the educational records and it doesn’t look like the high school has a low enrollment rate.
Babies eat soup morning, noon, and night and fall into a vicious cycle of malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, and respiratory infections. Moms are apathetic about child and maternal health. When every child in the area in malnourished it is hard to see the hope. Women hide their pregnancies from the health post in Quisuarpampa, and it is easy to do so when you live in an isolated hut 6-9 hours away. They aren’t properly nourished, don’t receive iron supplements, and give birth in their homes or fields.
Minasccasa is a bleak place. It presents unique challenges for development and public health. How do you reach people who live in such an isolated place, hardly come together, and spend most of their time herding alpacas? How do you convince a mother that never learned to read or write and has never seen a hospital, bank, or business that it is important for her 12 year old daughter to stay in school and become a professional? How can a mother that has four kids under 5 properly feed them when there is no access to fresh food? How can Minasccasa advance?