In September, 2000 David Werner visited Ecuador to help facilitate two very different activities. One was a three day Regional Forum for the Health of the People, held in Cuenca and organized by Dr. Arturo Quizhpe and the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Cuenca. The other was a six day Regional Training Course in Community Based Rehabilitation, held in Quito and organized by Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM).

The Cuenca Forum

The Foro Regional POR LA SALUD POPULAR (Regional Forum for Health of the People)--held in Cuenca, Sept. 26-28, 2000--was a preparatory event to encourage grassroots involvement in the People's Health Assembly (PHA), which promises to be a groundbreaking world-wide event to take place in Bangladesh, December 4-8, 2000. Similar regional fora in preparation for the PHA are taking place in Central America, Asia, Africa, Canada and Europe.

The Cuenca Forum was attended by over 500 activists and health workers from diverse programs, popular movements, and NGOs (non-government organizations) and various marginalized groups.

The Forum was co-sponsored by the Cuenca Faculty of Medical Sciences, the Cuenca School of Public Health, Plan International, Doctors for Renovation, Society for Family and Community Health, Action Aid, Cuenca Child-to-Child Center, Nursing College of Azuay, and other organizations and NGOs. The Cuenca Forum for Health of the People opened with a presentation by shamans (medicine men) from the Shaur tribe in jungles of Eastern Ecuador.  The shamans insisted that to heal the people’s physical ills, it is necessary first to heal their spiritual ills and to restore a healthy balance with the natural environment.

A key objective of the Peoples Health Assembly will be to give a voice to unheard and marginalized groups in the decisions that shape their health and lives. To this end, the Cuenca Forum welcomed health workers and spokespersons representing a spectrum of disadvantaged and indigenous groups from the central highlands to the coastal tropics to the Amazon headwaters. Speakers included shamans (medicine men) from the Shuar and Achuar tribes in the eastern jungles, activists working for the rights of women migrating illegally to the United States, community health promoters from underprivileged urban and rural settlements, and activists defending the rain forests and their inhabitants from the onslaught of multinational oil companies.

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