For Fulvia Guerrero, healing is a calling

The World Health Organization (WHO) Stop TB Strategy aims to dramatically reduce the global burden of TB by 2015 in line with the Millennium Development Goals and the Stop TB Partnership targets. 

Its objectives include:

  • Achieve universal access to high-quality care for all people with TB
  • Reduce the human suffering and socioeconomic burden associated with TB
  • Protect vulnerable populations from TB, TB/HIV and multidrug-resistant TB
  • Support development of new tools and enable their timely and effective use, and
  • Protect and promote human rights in TB prevention, care and control

Its targets are:

  • MDG 6, Target 8: Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of TB by 2015
  • Targets linked to the MDGs and endorsed by the Stop TB Partnership:
    – by 2015: reduce prevalence and deaths due to TB by 50% compared with a baseline of 1990
    – by 2050: eliminate TB as a public health problem

For Fulvia Guerrero, healing is a calling.  Since she was a girl growing up in Satinga, in the Nariño Department of Colombia, it has been her mission and her life’s compass.  Now 49, this nurse’s aide works as a community health representative with WHO’s Stop TB Strategy in 46 targeted municipalities on Colombia’s Pacific Coast.

Equipped with lab samples and slides, her personal belongings and a jacket identifying her as a nurse with the project, Fulvia travels by boat from the municipality of Olaya Herrera to the most isolated villages, a journey which can take 4 to 5 hours.

With persistence that comes from her responsibility and courage, she goes door to door searching for patients with tuberculosis and families who want to hear her informative talks on the illness.  

On many occasions while she is working, night arrives and she stays in communities, which in many cases, have neither potable water nor electricity.

Not even language has been an obstacle to reach the indigenous communities which, along with Afro-descendants, are the two most representative groups in the region.  With ingenuity she has convinced leaders from the Embera Katio community of the importance of knowing the illness.  There is no doubt that, with support from translators and memebers of the communities, she has been instrumental in preventing new outbreaks of TB in indigenous communities in the region.

It is clear that Fulvia is convinced and committed to her community work, and this has made her a tireless worker.  She won’t take “no” for an answer, and with the same skills that she has used to arrive in these remote communities, she has knocked on many doors, including mayors’ offices, the Red Cross, and Environmental Sanitation, seeking everything from nutritional packets to materials to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable patients.  But her work doesn’t stop there.

She has trained students and community agents to support her TB prevention efforts through talks and campaigns to disseminate information.

The strategy of the project in the 46 targeted municipalities, as well as its biggest challenge, has been reaching the deepest roots of these communities and planting the necessary seeds to promote change in the attitudes and practices in all of its residents.

Community health agents like Fulvia have made the difference and have added true value to the project by strengthening individuals and communities’ abilities to effectively influence health determinations and protection against tuberculosis.