Kilombo App, a drive to digitize generic medicine

Healing in ancestral medicine comes from medicinal plants, from words and prayers. / Afrokom

With tenacity in her voice, Julissa Mosquera told us in the midst of a pandemic that black communities should go hand in hand with the rest of the world. “We are not going to stop. We must explore new forms of communication.” Three years later, this Chocoan woman, quilombo overseer Yumma, tells us with the same force and clarity that the Kilombo app already exists, a tool that aims to streamline quilombo procedures and thus guarantee communities of quality technology-based care.

“It is very important for us to have an app with which we can capture the attention we are giving to quilombos and territories in real time,” Mosquera said. She arrived in Bogota over 10 years ago with her choco loaded into her suitcase because the armed conflict left her no choice but to flee Quibdo. But he arrived in the capital dreaming of a health care system that would include blacks, their worldview, and respect their language and customs.

Today, there are 10 quilombos in Bogota, one for every two cities, who provide free care and are led by different women. The initiative was launched in 2014 by the Ministry of Health as part of the Gustavo Petro Mayor’s Office intercultural medicine district project. “In these spaces, we visit, from ancestral medicine, all the people who enter. There is a midwife, a knowledgeable woman, a nurse, an environmental technician and me, the manager,” Ingris Urbina explained to us. This healing comes from medicinal plants, from words and prayers, it consists in curing bodily ailments without neglecting the spirit.

“He combines our herbs, our fragrances, our spirituality and puts them at the service of body care,” Julissa Mosquera tells us.

If we are talking about ancestral midwifery, for example, “those who understand the importance of this profession insist that maintaining the practice of ancestral midwifery in the black community is a way to make communities politically and culturally visible,” writes Olga Lucia Samboni in an academic text. In other words, ancestral medicine is also a test of the black community’s resistance.

Samboni adds to his explanation by saying that “there is no such sacred and extraordinary human act as the giving of life with hands, knowledge, soul and body through the accompaniment that a midwife performs at the birth of a child.” Quilombo matron Yumma told us something similar: “Here the idea is to intertwine ancestral and Western medicine. We cannot give birth in quilombs, but we accompany a pregnant woman until she enters the healthcare system. The goal is for the woman to come out prepared so that her birth is more humane and happier.”

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The kilombo service is essential as it is the closest space vulnerable communities living on the outskirts of Bogotá have to a health care system. To get an idea of ​​the problem, the District Victims Observatory found that black communities are the ethnic group with the highest number of victims of armed conflict in Bogota: more than 32,400 people, representing 8.8% of the total number of victims located in the city.

“Many of these people are not even registered, and when they arrive in quilombo, a connection is established between communities and the health system,” Mosquera added.

But in order to establish a connection with institutions, quilombos must fill out forms that do not necessarily make their job easier or collect the knowledge of their ancestors. “The manager and environmental technician spend their lives on these formats, which, although required by the Ministry of Health, are repetitive documents that lose the user experience,” said quilombo midwife Yumma.

Laura Niño, Head of Strategic and Product Design, who contributed to the development Quilombo App, told us that the women working in the quilombo are “inundated with forms. There are eight formats (per person) and none of them collect wisdom or information from ancestral medicine, it is absolutely generic. Besides, these are documents full of redundant and unintelligible questions.”

She insists that many community organizations suffer from a lack of tools to match their needs. “This phenomenon is known as the organizational digital divide. While there may be tools such as Google Docs or Google SheetsFor example, these programs are not designed for measurement and do not allow organizations to connect to other digital systems to their strengths,” Niño said.

All this has an aggravating circumstance: the data collected in the forms does not generate any feedback about the service they provide. “When they ask in quilombo how many people go per month, they can’t find that information so easily. This means that the data only goes towards institutions, but is not returned. This does not work within the modern logic of digital development,” Niño said.

Sofia Castañeda, researcher and app interface designer, says that Programs It will be logistical support that will allow kilombo workers to regain control over the data they generate, “but it will also help them complement the services they provide to the community,” he said.

How does the Quilombo app work?

“The person who uses the app is the one who works in the quilombo. We are in the pilot testing phase and for now this will benefit the communities our team serves, namely Antonio Nariño and San Cristobal. However, the idea is to influence the entire metropolitan area,” Julissa told us.

Laura Niño, Head of Strategic and Product Design, explains that the focus is on the person first, and then registration begins.

On how it works, Laura Niño explains that, according to the logic of applications and the Western health service, the patient is first mapped, and then care is provided. “Not here. We had to change the course of action, because in quilombo the most important thing is the person,” he added. This was fundamental for Julissa Mosquera. “Who developed Programs They have always respected our languages ​​and our customs. That’s why we’re going to find terms like ‘pregnant’ in the app, because that’s where our essence and culture are,” said quilombo overseer Yumma.

In a similar vein, Sophia Castaneda said it was important to make sure the app felt like something typical of black culture. “If you have ever been to kilombo, you understand that being there is a very beautiful sensory experience because it smells amazing, there are many posters, patterns and colors. We integrate it all. We even designed icons for the hairstyles and scarves they wear at work,” she commented.

Upon entering ProgramsNino noted, “We are going to find additional questions. “For those who work in quilombo, this subsequent stage means first of all caring for the person; It could be follow-up of a pregnant woman or an infant.” Then the registry does come, but from two areas: “First, from demographic data, which is more standardized within Western logic. And then in terms of the community, Ubuntu, its role in the team,” he concluded.

For all these women Quilombo App This is a bet on public health surveillance, the ability to connect to digital systems and share key public health data. “In this way, we will be able to understand what is happening with these populations in real time,” Niño explained.

She added that the creation of this Programs this also answers Julissa’s concerns as Yumma Quilombo’s matron. “She always told us: ‘We as a community are technologically behind, our knowledge is not collected in any format that allows us to survive’, which means to live outside of time,” added Laura Niño.

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What’s next? The initiative received the support of various organizations such as the Usaid Ethnic Juntaza Program and ACDI/VOCA, which helped them to strengthen and disseminate Programs. However, there are still ambitious targets to be met as the application is in its early stages.

“This first step was made possible thanks to Share-net International (…). But we need to keep developing the app, we need more funding and allies,” Niño said. For Mosquera, the issue of funding is also key, as the ability to continue serving the most vulnerable communities depends on it. “It is important that quilombos become a state policy and not a positive action, when we will always depend on the ruler of the day,” he concluded.

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About Allen Whyte

I'm Allen Whyte, a writer for with 5 years of experience. I love bringing you the latest news and stories from around the world. Join me on this exciting journey as we explore the fascinating world we live in!

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