Health and Interculturality in Ecuadorian Amazon


July - August 2017


Women, family and territory programme: supporting the group Kuyan Kuyan Warmi Kuna

In the month of July, Ernestina Vargas, the president of the group Kuyan Kuyan Warmi Kuna, from Canelos, took part in the seminar “Giving birth; amongst wisdom, power and tradition”.

The relationship between the formal health system and the indigenous midwives goes a long way back. In the last few years, there has been a new approach between the state and traditional midwives. Nevertheless, indigenous women don’t feel that they receive the treatment and recognition they disserve from the formal health system. The issue of receiving a fair economic compensation for the important work they do, still isn’t resolved. Meanwhile the midwife’s role remains key with regards to reducing maternal/infant mortality and reducing the excess number of caesareans in the world.

SWM provided support to coordinate the trip and the participation of Ernestina in the event. Soon Cipacuna will do a publication about the event…


Fundraising campaign to support the group Kuyan Kuyan Warmi Kuna

The multidisciplinary centre for investigations of traditional wisdom CIPACUNA and Sacha Warmi Muskuy join forces for the launching of a campaign to support the group of Kichwa women Kuyan Kuyan Warmi Kuna in Canelos. The goal of this campaign is to fundraise $1500 to cover the administrative costs for the legalization of this women’s association, as well as to be able to set up a fund to purchase a stock of unique ceramic pieces from the women of Canelos, which will be exhibited in their ceramic workshop and at the centre Sacha Warmi.

More news about this campaign in the following news bulletin...


Intercultural health program

“Many reports and studies from around the world, show that on a daily basis, indigenous people suffer from considerable levels of racism and discrimination from the occidental health services, amongst other factors, due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the indigenous cosmovision with regards to health.”


(State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2009)

The programme of intercultural health is been carried out together with the association of indigenous communities of Arajuno, ACIA, in the province of Pastaza and with the Ceibo Alliance in Lago Agrio, who integrate and work with Siona, Siekopai, Ai’Kofan and Waorani communities. Furthermore various activities and conversations have taken place, with other kichwa communities in the province of Pastaza and Napo.

Arajuno Region

The 22 of September, in coordination with the association of indigenous communities of Arajuno, ACIA, we gathered up with 11 people from 6 indigenous communities and one of the leaders from ACIA, to begin a process of reflexion regarding barriers to access formal health services. Within this group, were various women from the “Midwives Association of Arajuno”.


Women from the Midwives Association of Arajuno, expressing themselves during the meeting on the 13th of September.

On the occasion of the meeting, the proposal to train intercultural health agents was socialized with the participants. Such training responds to the need to create more capacity within the communities, so they play a more direct and active role in maintaining a good health.
For this, the participants consider important and necessary, to strengthen their own traditional health system. They also agree that an intercultural dialogue should be promoted with the formal health system, to reach a more harmonious relationship. The hope is that this step can help reaching better current health and living conditions in the communities. This requires collaboration from both traditional and occidental medicine, even if right now it is not exactly clear on how to reach this cooperation.

Furthermore there still exists a legal gap, where even though constitutional recognition of the value and importance of traditional indigenous medicine does exist, and its use is being promoted through the ministry of health’s model of comprehensive healthcare, there doesn’t exist the appropriate mechanisms for the traditional medicine providers to receive a fair economic compensation for their contribution within a global health system, which in fact already integrates both kinds of medicine.

The formation of intercultural health agents programme put forward, is a first step toward the possibility of creating a professional career for indigenous students from the communities, with the hope to one day become a university engineering degree in intercultural health.


Relationship with the Health district of Arajuno

At the start of 2017, began a process of information transfer and cultural awareness training, amongst the healthcare professionals that work at the health centre of Arajuno.
These activities support the ministry of health’s proposal for a model of comprehensive healthcare (MAIS-FCI), for the development of greater intercultural competencies amongst the healthcare staff of the operative units of the established health system.
The meeting enabled to discuss and agree on alternative solutions to the difficulties experienced in the last months. It was agreed to extend the training on interculturality to the administrative staff of the health district, ensuring also the presence of the directors from the 5 operative units in the area, as well as the technicians in primary healthcare (TAPS) who cover that area. The health district committed themselves to carry out and fulfil these agreements.


Ceibo Alliance

In coordination with Ceibo Alliance, we continue to support the Siekopai community in Sewaya, with the medicinal plant garden and audio-visual documentation of the elders’ wisdom on plants of important cultural value.

“The lessons learned are that the promotion of indigenous medicine increases self esteem of its practitioners and strengthens the identity, confidence and self-management capacity of indigenous people”.


(State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2009)

It is expected that this project will be able to play role in motivating other communities of Alianza Ceibo to take an interest in the topic of health, traditional medicine and interculturality.


The project of the community medicinal plant garden of Sewaya is mainly part of the vision of one woman: Fanny Piaguaje


Unión Venecia

Thanks to the initiative of Jeremias Tapuy who works with the ministry of health, as a technician in primary care (TAPS), the 12th of September we met with a group of kichwa from the community of Union Venencia, in the province of Napo, to discuss with them the proposal of reassessing the importance of their traditional medicine system.
This initiative is embedded within a larger project to strengthen traditional medicine and to create more capacity within the indigenous communities that Sacha Warmi works with to reach a genuine interculturality in health.


Members of the Kichwa community of Union Venecia, at the end of a gathering in their community medicinal plant garden.


Sincere appreciation to:

We want to give thanks to the following people:

  • Mateo Kingman: for nominating Sacha warmi Muskuy to the Kindle Project, an organization which donated $1000 to SWM.
  • Elian Kool, from Netcentric (Zürich, Switzerland), the company who donated a Macbook Air to SWM.
  • Dominik Scheu, for the warm welcome in Zürich (Switzerland) last July and his support for joining together a group of people who will be financially supporting SWM from Switzerland.
  • Thomas Bouchet, (France) for his support in the actualization of our webpage and his commitment to continue supporting us, as well Roberto Weisz, for his support in the English translations.
  • Tertit Ring and Roberto Weisz for their monthly economical support to cover the salary of Jose, who is in charge of the maintenance at Sacha Warmi Center.

May 2017

Internship by three medical students from Switzerland.

Alessia, Chiara, and Clara are third year students in medicine at the University of Geneva (Switzerland). They did an internship with Sacha Warmi Muskuy from May 15 to June 7, in order to observe how the Ecuadorian public health system is integrating interculturality in the services it offers to the public.

The students had the opportunity to spend approximately 10 days in the health center in Canelos, to visit and interview with the staff at the Health Center of Arajuno, as well as the Puyo Regional Hospital.

Some of the results of their observations and the data collected in the course of their internship were taken into account for the presentation of the first report to the Public Health Ministry regarding the progress of the Intercultural Health Initiative which has come to an end over the past six months.

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Interview with the Director of the Arajuno Health Center about the “cultural delivery”


Inter-cultural Health Initiative

How far away… is intercultural health?! This is the title of the presentation by Didier at the Congress of Natural Medicine organized by the CYRAE
(Yachac Council of the Ecuadorian Amazonian Region) this past April. As can be seen in the attached document, much is still missing, from each side, in accomplishing a coming together between Western medicine and traditional medicine which might allow for a real dialogue and meeting between both forms of medicine… Read more.

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