El Escobal

  • Overview
  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Water
  • Business
  • Public Health


El Escobal a small community is located in the province of Coclé, west of Panama City. A typical house there is made of concrete blocks, wood, or “quincha” (mud and straw). El Escobal does not have a school; children walk to the nearby community of El Limón for primary school and then they must travel up to an hour for the nearest secondary school. Most of the community members work in agriculture or creating artisan crafts. There is no health post in the community. The nearest health post is in El Limón, which is sometimes attended by a health assistant. The nearest health center is in the community of La Pintada, which means community members must wait for a bus and pay each way to visit a doctor. All of the homes in El Escobal are connected to a gravity-fed aqueduct, but the water does not reach homes in the upper part of the community. Most of the homes in the community have pit latrines and showers, but they could benefit from more sturdy construction. El Escobal does not have a community bank that offers savings and loans services. The top needs expressed by the community were: improved access to healthcare, water, and electricity.

District: Penonome
Province: Coclé

Homes : 35
Population : 100
Water System : Yes- in need of repairs
Community Bank : No
Electricity : No
Health Center : No- closest in La Pintada
Community Health Workers : No
Homes with sanitation service : 100%
Education : Nearest school in El Limón
Closest GB lodging facility : Las Iguanas


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Even though Panama is a country with a lot of economic growth, this growth does not apply equally to all Panamanians, especially those in rural areas. This results in stark inequality when it comes to healthcare access. The Panamanian Ministry of Health (MINSA) provides two different types of health facilities throughout rural Panama: Centros de Salud and Puestos de Salud. Centros are the larger of the two, often found in municipalities, and typically have at least one physician on staff at all times with nurses and potentially a dentist. Puestos are found sporadically in rural communities and generally have a single nurse available. 

Even with this coverage, the Centros frequently lack a full pharmacy and the staff capacity to see every patient each day. After walking long distances or paying for a bus, rural visitors to the Centros can expect long wait times given the limited staff and resources to meet the demand from all neighboring communities. The physician density in Panama remains around 630 people for every one doctor. According to the World Health Organization, there should be a maximum of 435 people per physician to qualify a country as having adequate access to medical attention.

The closest Puesto de Salud is in El Limón, and the closest Centro de Salud is in La Pintada, about 9 kms away. The most prevalent illnesses in children in El Escobal are common cold, diarrhea, asthma. The most prevalent illnesses in adults are high blood pressure, fever, common cold, and diabetes.

*These statistics reflect data from Medical/Dental Brigades in the community of El Limón, where community members from El Escobal attend mobile clinics.




Patient Consultations*


Vision Screenings Provided*


A group of CHWs from East Panama, trained in 2019

GB Panama’s Medical Dental team started the Agentes Comunitarios en Salud or ACeS program in 2016. “Agentes” from 10 communities in Eastern Panama and Darien were Panama’s first community health workers. Currently, 1 CHW in El Escobal is on track to complete the training and start visiting community members with basic health needs.

Some of the CHW’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Promoting healthy practices and maintaining contact with GB staff about their progress
  • Performing First Aid in the case of an emergency
  • Managing the Patient Referral cases of the community
  • Promoting involvement with other GB programs such as Human Rights, Public Health and Microfinance workshops
  • Recording and monitoring members of their respective communities who:
    • Are pregnant
    • Have a chronic disease
    • Are children under five
      years old.


El Limon primary school where clinics are held

Community members in El Escobal attend Medical and Dental Brigade clinics hosted in El Limón’s school building. The various stations of the clinic are held in the school’s classrooms. More information is available on the El Limón profile.


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


A dental charla in Ipeti Emberá, Panama

Working closely with the Medical Program, the Dental Program provides fillings, extractions, and fluoride treatments as a standard part of medical brigades. Most community members do not have regular access to dental care due to the lack of a dentist within a reasonable distance.

*These statistics reflect data from Medical/Dental Brigades in the community of El Limón, where community members from El Escobal attend mobile clinics.



Dental Patient Consultations*




Fluoride Treatments*


El Limon primary school where clinics are held

Global Brigades does not send Medical/Dental Brigades in El Escobal because they do not have a space to host clinics. Community members in El Escobal attend Medical and Dental Brigade clinics hosted in the nearby community of El Limón. The various stations of the clinic are held in the school’s classrooms. More information is available on the El Limón profile.


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


El Escobal has a gravity-fed water system which brings water from a spring in the hills near the community. The system was originally constructed in 1989, so many of the pipes are starting to deteriorate, producing frequent leaks.

Although El Escobal is a very small community, there are 2 separate water committees (7 members each) for the 2 separate sections of the water system– one for upper Escobal and one for lower Escobal. The system for lower Escobal Abajo functions well, but the system for upper Escobal is in serious need of repairs. The houses in upper Escobal do not consistently receive water. There is also a large government construction project of windmills happening in the area, and the deforestation from this project has damaged the watershed for the surrounding communities. It is difficult for them to make demands against the project, however, because the water committees are not legally registered with the Ministry of Health.




Project Beneficiaries


Kilometers of Pipeline Installed


A trench dug for pipes in the nearby community of El Limón

In March 2020, Global Brigades began working with the community of El Escobal to repair their water system. 

It was determined that the best fit for El Escobal would be: to replace the conduction line and distribution network with new tubes, build an additional catchment tank at the source, and eventually install household connections with water meters.  Upon completion, the repaired system will benefit 30 households, consisting of approximately 100 individuals. There is also the possibility that the GB Legal Empowerment team can help the Water Committees navigate the process of obtaining their “personería jurídica,” or legal registration.

In the interest of sustainability, after the project is complete, the members of the Water Committee will be trained on water treatment and system maintenance, administration, and operation, so they can continue adequately managing the water system. El Escobal will also establish a monthly water fee determined by usage in order to pay the Water Committee for water treatment, maintenance costs, and system sustainability.


Chapter Date Number of Volunteers
University of Notre Dame Medical March 2020 33


Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete


Community members in El Escobal lack access to financial resources within the community. The majority of community members do not have bank accounts and there are only limited informal forms of credit available. For example, a person could obtain ‘credit’ at a local store by buying something now and paying later, simply adding it to their ‘tab,’ but there would be no formalized credit transaction.  Larger financial institutions do not approve loans to community members without a fixed income, making it difficult for local micro-enterprises to grow and thrive.

Most community members cite the distance to the nearest bank as the main discouragement to having a personal savings account. Even if individuals wish to travel the distance, not all community members can become members of these financial institutions–cooperatives require monthly membership fees, savings accounts often require a fixed income, and the cost of travel provides an additional barrier.




Capital Invested


Savings Accounts Opened


Loans Administered

Community Bank : Caja Rural El Escobal
Community Bank Members : 15
Economic Activities : Agriculture, Artisan crafts
Existing Microenterprises : No


The Global Brigades Business and Microfinance Team trained a new Community Bank in El Escobal in September 2020. The team is still working on training the executive board in order to ensure the sustainability of the Caja and prepare them to apply for the different loans that will benefit the community.


Chapter Date # Of Volunteers Chapter Date # Of Volunteers
Crean Lutheran High School February 2022 20


Public Health

Program Status

  • Planning
  • Active
  • Complete

Global Brigades is working on the implementation of the Holistic Model in El Escobal but has not yet begun with the Public Health Program. If there is a need, the financing, delivery, and installation of sanitation units will start as soon as feasible.


Homes with Latrines : 86%
Homes with Flushing Toilets : 9%
Homes with Baths/Showers : 94%
Common House Materials : Concrete blocks, wood, mud

Local Reference Points

View the map to see the closest volunteer lodging facilities, hospitals, and other relevant points of reference.

  • Feature