In 2012, roughly 2.5 million poor people from Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia had access to healthcare services through programs delivered to them by an MFI (microfinance institution). These results were released in a recent report last week in Quito.

The report, prepared as part of a collaboration between Health Market Innovations, Freedom from Hunger and the Microcredit Summit Campaign, shows the importance of this financial component for the region’s social development. 

A total of 24 MFIs in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru deliver integrated services that include health services. Fifty percent of them operate in Ecuador.

Amelia Kuklewicz, Director of Freedom from Hunger’s program in Ecuador, explained the offerings of several MFIs, including four or five different types of products that they deliver to most of their clients.

These institutions include, for instance, Cooprogreso with six health products and Espoir with five.

These health products include healthcare services delivered directly through a provider (a doctor or a linked healthcare center), discounts, home visits by community-based healthcare workers, individual or group loans and microinsurance.

José Ignacio Carreño, Director of Procosi, a Bolivian network of NGOs and MFIs, said the challenge for MFIs is to create strong relationships and reach agreements with healthcare providers (public, private or NGO-operated) to deliver health services.

"It is more efficient for an MFI to work together with an organization that is already delivering health services, instead of attempting to deliver the services themselves. The MFI does not have to hire its own medical staff," Carreño says.

Despite these challenges, MFI clients have certainly benefited from the delivery of the integrated health services and, in many cases, the opportunity brought to them by the MFI programs is the only option poor people have to access health care, according to the report.

An example of this is the Health Fairsorganized by CRECER in Bolivia. Roughly 24 percent of CRECER’s clients indicated that they accessed health care for the first time when they attended one of CRECER’s Health Fairs.

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