San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S.-Costa Rica team up to bring health care to indigenous tribe

The U.S. Army and the Costa Rican Social Security System, also known as La Caja, are teaming up to provide health care to isolated indigenous people.

The Ngobes tribe, roughly 600 of whom live on a reservation in Punta Burica on the border with Panama, are scheduled to receive medical assistance Sept. 25-27.

Thanks to logistical and medical assistance from the United States, the locals will be receiving medical services for the first time in at least two years, according to Golfito Acting Health Director Jocseliny Benavides.

Benavides said authorities haven´t been able to attend to the Ngobes for years because of bureaucratic inertia, lack of resources and problems coordinating arrival to an area without good roads.

“The (indigenous leaders) complained about the lack of service, and we managed to get this agreement with the United States just this year,” she said. “The people are suffering from respiratory infections, parasites, and they don´t even have potable water.”

The United States is providing a team of 19 medical professionals, and a helicopter is being contracted to transport the personnel.

According to a press release, Caja authorities hope to institutionalize medical visits to the region every three months. The release also states area residents suffer from tuberculosis, dermatitis, diabetes and diarrhea.

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