The Tekove Katu ("Full Life" in the Guarani language) School of Health was established 40 years ago in the Bolivian Chaco region with tenacious, pioneering work to benefit indigenous populations. Its mission focuses on addressing the health needs of its communities by training indigenous youth in the region, implementing health services coherent with their culture, and promoting scientific research.
The school was created in 1982 in the municipality of Gutiérrez, department of Santa Cruz, by Father Tarciso Ciabatti, with the help of a group of Italian and Bolivian volunteers. The school is covered by the Health Agreement between the Apostolic Vicariate of Camiri and the Ministry of Health of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, and works to enhance health services in the Bolivian Chaco through continuous coordination with indigenous social organizations and authorities of the national health system.
The school initially trained young nurses to ensure that vaccines reached the most remote communities in the Chaco region. Its mission has also led to important innovations in the training of indigenous health workers, combining the strictest scientific health regime with traditional medicine and a close relationship with the Guarani indigenous community.
Collaboration between Tekove Katu and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) focuses on technical cooperation to train and educate indigenous professionals working in the areas of nursing, environmental health, and nutrition, as well as the implementation of projects to improve access to quality water in indigenous communities.
In 2009, the Tekove Katu School of Health was nominated by PAHO as a model school in the region for its innovative approach to the training of indigenous health workers. Its unique approach continues to this day, demonstrating that it is possible to promote a vision of comprehensive, quality health provided by experts from the community itself.
The partnership between Tekove Katu and PAHO in Bolivia has become even stronger since 2015, when the Regional Project for the South American Chaco was implemented to train the school's students in the monitoring of water quality. Also, technical and financial advice has been provided to establish a regional water laboratory and develop safety plans for this important resource in a region known for water scarcity.
In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, a project has been carried out (with the additional support of the European Union) since October 2021 to enhance response capacities in health facilities and vulnerable indigenous communities.
Thanks to this intervention, some Guarani indigenous communities in the Bolivian Chaco region are now empowered to prevent and properly manage communicable diseases, especially COVID-19. In addition, indigenous health workers in the area are trained, sensitized, and equipped to provide timely and quality intercultural medical care within the framework of the rights of indigenous peoples.
Given its in-depth knowledge of the local context and culture and its pioneering work in training indigenous professionals from various regions, the Tekove Katu School is a unique partner for PAHO in the development of human resources for health and the promotion of equitable access to health services. Its dedication and extensive experience clearly serve as a reference in the Americas, enabling it to share its mission and inspire other territories.
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