Belen is a town built floating atop of the tributaries, the source of the Amazon River. The District of Belen is a town near the city of Iquitos and is one of the poorest and most excluded populations in the country, where the PAHO Representation in Peru is developing an intensive program of cooperation. In the first week of February of this year, Drs. Jorge Rodriguez, Regional Coordinator of Mental Health and Hugo Cohen, Subregional Adviser for Mental Health in South America for PAHO, together with PAHO staff, visited this District in Peru to analyze technical cooperation in the field of mental health.
The data collected late last year in Belen showed the existence of a rising amount of violence in various forms including sexual violence, a high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, a high number of teenage pregnancies; sexual exploitation and a disturbing amount of alcohol consumption, among other problems.
The partnership between local authorities and regional health officials, from the municipality and the Peruvian PAHO delegation, is to promote community initiatives to support the participation of the local residents, transforming them into actors willing to become involved in making the necessary changes. There is an important work experience in Belen in the psychosocial field with the participation of clowns and the presentation of tournaments and festivals that have proven to be popular activities that attract and stimulate the participation of the population.
As part of the visit, an agreement was made to support the work of the health team in Belen by offering training for those working in Primary Care. The detection and treatment of people with depression and those with alcohol problems was made a priority. Simultaneously, in a progressive manner, they will seek to transform the focus of psychiatric care in the Region as part of a community mental health plan.