Washington, DC, August 17, 2009 (PAHO) - During her visit to Peru, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, met with 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 Director Dr. Mirta Roses tours the town of Pueblo Libre, Belén, accompanied by Health Minister Dr. Oscar Ugarte Ubilluz and Dr. Manuel Peña, PAHO/WHO Representative in Peru.
PAHO advisers, government officials and some 100 humanitarian clowns from all over the world participated in the event. The arts and health promoters came with their paint and paint brushes and messages to promote health and improve the quality of life of town residents.
This was 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 joined forces in an effort that has been growing year by year and is now known as the Belén Festival. This year the theme was environmental sanitation, with emphasis on solid waste management.
In the community of Belén, many of the 15,000 residents awaited the arrival of this brigade of experts who bring them art, fun, color, music, and information about public and environmental health, and promote food safety in the home and in the local markets. Together, they organized 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.
Dr. Roses Periago visited the town of Pueblo Libre, Sachachorros (a rural area in the lower-altitude zone of Belén), watched the parade, and attended 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 was 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.
Prior to the walk, Ugarte and Roses were honored as distinguished guests of the city of Belén.
Dr. Roses thanks the Mayor of Belén after being honored as a distinguished guest of the city.
In her words of thanks, Dr. Roses noted that PAHO's "Faces, Voices and Places" project works with the most vulnerable social groups and the poorest municipalities of the Americas, which have been neglected for too long and where progress has become invisible when compared to national averages.
Dr. Ugarte said that the project, which has already been in operation for five years in Belén, has succeeded in painting the facades of more than a hundred houses, painting murals, organizing training workshops for the operation of video cameras, visiting hospitals, nursing homes, mental health centers and schools for children with different abilities. "It is a multi-year work being developed with support from PAHO, the regional government and the municipality. It is very active and is done with the community. The Ministry of Health is committed to to the project and I continue to believe that very positive results will be achieved," he said during the walk through the streets of Belén.
Today Dr. Roses opened the 1st International Forum on Art: A Bridge to Health and Development. She was joined by health officials and Mrs. Inés Sanguinetti, Representative of the Latin American Network of the Arts for Social Change (RLATS), with whom she signed an agreement between PAHO and RLATS.
The PAHO/WHO Representative in Peru has been exploring since 2007 innovative lines of work that use the arts as a tool for public health. First, in Belén under the Faces, Voices, and Places project, 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 "Art: A Bridge to Health and Development," 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 "Art: 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.