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Ecuador Healthcare

Ecuador is one of the poorest nations in Latin America, ranking 99 in the world, with a per capita income of only US$5,820. Its healthcare system reflects this, as the general mortality rate, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), is 4.1 per 1,000 inhabitants.

Some of the greatest health problems in Ecuador today include malnutrition, diabetes and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death. Other common problems include acute respiratory infections and diarrheic diseases, which have risen dramatically since 1990. With the country's large agribusiness industry, the PAHO has found a profound increase in the number of illnesses caused by the use of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals.

Ecuador has managed to improve its healthcare over the past decade by centralising and attempting to organise its system into regional units. Ecuador's Ministry of Public Health is said to cover approximately 30% of the population, and in total, there are more than 17,000 physicians and 5,200 nurses working in the public system. Since the Free Maternal Child Health Law was passed in September 1994, free reproductive health services have been guaranteed for all.

However, there are many factors that have made across-the-board medical service nearly impossible. Although Ecuador's rural population has dropped from around 70% in 1950 to half that by 2002, the combination of 40-plus indigenous groups, numerous languages and populations in remote areas, all contribute to the difficulty in setting up an equitable healthcare system.

Many of Ecuador's poorest, who live in the central provinces, Amazonia and urban shanty towns, receive no medical treatment from the two main public sources – the Public Health Ministry and the Social Security Institute. Estimates suggest that as much as 20-30% of Ecuador's population lack immediate access to health services, and 70% are without health insurance and do not have the means to pay for care. These marginalised groups often rely on traditional medicine and aid from volunteers and NGOs.





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