PHOTOS: ANA FERREIRA
TEXTS: ANA FERREIRA / FCO. JAVIER SANCHO / PAU RUBIO
A documentary by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)
Published April 10, 2017.
Mayerlín is 7 years-old and lives between San Antonio and Valle Nuevo, South of Bolivia
Some time ago, they gave her bad news: she was infected with T. cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
Her parents are Juan and Tomasa. Fortunately, both are free from infection.
“When the children were small, there were lots of kissing bugs. The houses were made with straw and not with roof tiles like today. The bugs hid under the straw, together with fleas and bedbugs"
Her father, Juan, works in the fields.
He takes care of the hens, corn, peanuts, peppers and cumanda that they have at home.
Tomasa, her mother, takes care of thehouse. Here, she grinds corn with a stone to feed the hens, while Mayerlín eats almonds that her father brought from the fields.
On the days where matches take place in the football field of the community, Mayerlín helps her mother to prepare popcorn bags to sell to the crowd.
But not everything is work. Mayerlín plays with her friends Alexander, Keilyn, Limbert, Ruisel and Colita.
Although endemic to Latin America, Chagas disease has spread globally. It is among WHO’s list of the 17 most neglected diseases. Between 6 and 7 million people are estimated to be infected with the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite. Bolivia is, in fact, the country with highest disease prevalence.
Between San Antonio, where her parents live, and Valle Nuevo, where she attends school, there is a 2 hour walk. A distance that Mayerlín covers at least twice a week.
Despite her disease, Mayerlín has continued to attend school regularly. Among those who get infected, 30% will develop severe or fatal disease if not treated on time.
In her class there are six students: three are four-years old and three are seven-years old.
Dora, her teacher, also has Chagas Disease.
Before the end of the day, Mayerlín must do her homework. She is learning her multiplication tables.
Mayerlín, however, is not exactly like other girls her age, but one of the 39,000 new cases of Chagas Disease every year.