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PAHO Director, health promoters and humanitarian clowns will join Belén Festival in Peru

Washington, D.C. 15 August 2009 (PAHO) -  During her visit to Peru, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, will attend meetings with the regional and local authorities of Loreto, a department of Peru located in the Amazon region, to study the progress made in the Belén Project and hold talks with members of the Network for Belén, and area representatives.  PAHO experts and local authorities will join the Network for Belén and some 100 humanitarian clowns from all over the world. The art and health promoters will come with their paint and paint brushes and messages to promote health and improve the quality of life of town residents.

As in previous years, many of the 15,000 residents of Belén will be awaiting the arrival of this brigade of experts who will bring them art, fun, color, music, and information about public and environmental health, and to promote food safety in the home and in the local markets.  Together, they will organize community fairs with traditional games and health promotion and environmental improvement activities, encouraging the development of artistic talent to facilitate the collective expression of a community often known only for its poverty and ills.

This will be the fifth consecutive year in which the clowns—a cadre of teachers, students, doctors, nurses, artists, social workers, public health workers, lawyers, psychologists, therapists, painters, dancers, film-makers, executives—and the local community will joint forces in an effort that has been growing year by year and is now known as the Belén Festival. This year, the main theme will be environmental sanitation–solid waste management.

Later on, Dr. Roses Periago will visit Pueblo Libre, Sachachorros (a rural area in the lower-altitude zone of Belén), watch the parade, and attend the closure of the Belén Festival 2009, joined by Patch Adams of the Gesundheit! Institute, Bolaroja, and a group of humanitarian clowns. Dr. Roses Periago will be accompanied by the Minister of Health, Dr. Oscar Ugarte; the Vice Minister of Health, Dr. Meliton Arce; and Dr. Manuel Peña, PAHO/WHO Representative in Peru.

On Monday the 17th, Dr. Roses Periago will open the 1st International Forum on the Arts: A Bridge to Health and Development. She will be joined by health officials and Mrs. Inés Sanguinetti, Representative of the Latin American Network of the Arts for Social Change (RLATS), with whom she will sign an agreement between PAHO and RLATS.

Since 2007, the PAHO/WHO Representative in Peru has been exploring innovative lines of work that use the arts as a tool for public health—first, in Belén under the Faces, Voices, and Places Initiative, and later in the immediate response and recovery projects following the earthquake in Pisco.

In this way, close collaboration has been established with art organizations such as Bolaroja, the Gesundheit! Institute, Teatro Vivo, and Generarte, organizing the Belén Festival 2008 and a technical meeting on “The Arts: A Bridge to Health,” attended by former Minister of Health Hernán Garrido-Leca and representatives of academia and the social ministries, where numerous experiences linking the arts and health were described.

Through the invitation of the Latin American Network of the Arts for Social Change  (RLATS) - an umbrella organization representing various organizations in Peru and other countries of the Region – and in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization, the concept of a 1st International Forum on “Arts: A Bridge to Health”, began to take shape. This meeting would serve as a forum to describe, analyze and discuss the experiences learned from Belén.

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