The following passage from Dominican Republic: A Guide for Global Health Workers, Medical Practitioners, and NGO Volunteers accurately represents what I saw while working in the bateyes.
“Not surprisingly, healthcare indices here [in the bateyes] are significantly worse than those of the DR as a whole. As estimated by the Batey Relief Alliance, 40 percent of batey children under age five are chronically malnourished. One-third are stunted (a linear growth malnutrition involving severe protein deficiency) and kwashiorkor (a state of malnutrition involving severe protein deficiency) is still seen in the bateyes because sugar cane is used to pacify hunger. Immunization rates are difficult to ascertain, though they are significantly less than national rates. Diarrhea and parasites are rampant. The most common conditions in children include gastrointestinal and parasitic diseases, skin infections, upper respiratory infections, asthma and allergy symptoms, and symptomatic anemia. The majority of children present with chronic medical problems and multiple conditions, reflecting the general lack of access to primary and preventive health services. Among adults, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and gastrointestinal complaints are major complaint at clinics is pain (back pain in men from the work of cutting sugar cane, and headaches and abdominal pain in women). Dental decay is prevalent, from the habit of sucking sugar cane. Cataracts from long hours working in the bright sun are universal in men over age fifty,” (41).
With limited resources, we usually were forced to retreat symptoms rather than causes and often were unable to met the needs of the communities. We were cutting our children’s vitamins in half and only giving out 15 per child and still ran out after the first week. Due to the high rates of parasites, everyone who came to the clinic and weighed more than 40 lbs and was not pregnant or breast feeding was treated with anti-parasitics. We had to readjust our definition of “hypertension” since we did not have enough meds to dispense to everyone with systolic BP above 140 let along above 160. I also worked along side optical and dental where I saw numerous cataracts and rotting teeth (I extracted a tooth!).
Sadler, Karen and Kim Wilson. “Dominican Republic: A Guide for Global Health Workers, Medical Practitioners, and NGO Volunteers.” Geisel Series in Global Health and Medicine. Dartmouth 2015.
This project is supported by funding from a Middlebury College Community Engagement Cross Cultural Community Service Grant.