Situated along the northwest coast of South America, Peru — the birthplace of the Inca empire — is home to a culturally and economically diverse population.
While the majority of Peru's population lives in urban areas, many of Peru's indigenous groups still live outside of modern society, within the Amazon River basin or the Andes Mountains.
Life for people in urban areas, with ready access to universities, health clinics, and modern industry, is starkly different from that of people in rural areas, who rely primarily on subsistence farming and remain relatively isolated due to poor communication and transportation facilities in the interior of the country. Education is also unequal, with less than half of poor women having completed fifth grade, while nearly all of the country's wealthiest women have done so.
Inequality persists in the area of health care, as well. Although health care in Peru has improved in recent years, rural areas still lack adequate health care facilities. Some people can afford to pay for better-quality health care at private clinics, but those who cannot must depend on severely under-funded public hospitals and clinics where they often must buy their own medicine and wait hours to be seen.Despite better facilities in wealthier areas, reproductive health care problems remain a serious issue for all women in Peru, who face a one in 73 chance of dying from maternal causes. Peru's poorest women have a fertility rate nearly three-and-a-half times that of wealthier women. The poorest women will have, on average, more than five births per lifetime, yet only 20 percent of these births will be attended by a skilled birth attendant.
The rate of maternal death in Peru is the second highest in Latin America and nearly half of all pregnancies between 1995 and 2000 were unintended. Yet due to a restrictive abortion law, many women are forced to seek unsafe abortions, often in unhygienic settings, leaving them susceptible to complications such as hemorrhaging and infection, or, in many cases, death.
PPFA in Peru
The work of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) in Peru relies on strong partnerships with several local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Our work focuses on expanding access to sexual and reproductive health services and information and advocating for policies and laws that protect the reproductive rights of all Peruvians — but especially those of marginalized populations.
One of PPFA's partners, the Association of Amazon Conservation and Development (ACDA), works to integrate family planning services with existing community development efforts in the areas surrounding the 800,000-acre community reserve of Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo, deep in the Peruvian Amazon. In the first year of this project, ACDA will work to increase access to contraceptives among women, men, and young people in the community in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV.
Future goals of the project include: development of educational information on sexual and reproductive health topics; educational talks on sexual and reproductive health in schools, in the communities, and on the radio; and increased provision of quality family planning and sexual and reproductive health care services within the community.
In its advocacy work, PPFA supports its partner organization PROMSEX, a feminist NGO advocating for public policies and legislation that recognize, respect, promote, and guarantee sexual and reproductive rights as human rights. The high incidence of unsafe abortion and maternal death and disability in Peru provides impetus for the work of PROMSEX, which works for greater community involvement in the development of such policies, and a greater awareness within the community of policy changes related to reproductive health and rights.
Update — October 2009: Peru is currently reviewing its criminal code, including the criminalization of abortion. Watch a video of our partner, PROMSEX, engage in the debate to decriminalize abortion in Peru.