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In Guatemala, the face of poverty and hunger is young, indigenous and rural. Its national poverty rate exceeds 50% and extreme poverty is 15%. While 46% of the total population lives in rural areas, 72% of the extremely poor live in rural areas.

Extreme Inequality

Central America’s most populous country, about 40% of Guatemala’s population are of indigenous descent. Although Guatemala is a lower middle-income country (per capita income: $7,500), this figure masks extreme inequalities that affect indigenous and rural populations. For example, the average time in school among indigenous people is only 3.8 years while it is 6.5 years among the non-indigenous.

Almost 75% of indigenous people live in poverty compared with only 36% of the non-indigenous. These large inequalities are also present between rural and urban residents. Guatemala has a national poverty rate exceeding 50% and a rate of extreme poverty of 15%. While 46% of the total population lives in rural areas, 72% of the extremely poor live in rural areas.

Did you know?

  • Maternal mortality is 5x higher in some rural areas compared with Guatemala City
  • Almost 75% of indigenous Guatemalans live in poverty

Child mortality & malnutrition are 50% higher among rural & indigenous children.

Increasing Rural Access

There is increasing support for programs designed to narrow the deadly equality gap in Guatemala. An important contributor to these improvements is the MOH’s extension of coverage (EOC) program which contracts Non-Governmental Organizations to provide itinerant health services to communities that otherwise would not have adequate access. In addition, the MOH, with loans from the World Bank and IDB, is expanding emergency obstetric care in rural areas. This is good news for organizations-- like MTI-- focused on improving life for the most vulnerable in Guatemala.

Maternal Care = Upward Trends

While most health outcomes remain poor, Guatemala has made progress in narrowing these gaps. The child mortality rate, currently at 30 per 1000 live births, met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of 37. Total fertility fell from 5.0 (1999) to 3.6 (2009), contraceptive prevalence increased to 54%, and skilled birth attendance increased to 51%.

MTI's programs focus on providing support for mothers, children, and infants in Guatemala's most underserved areas. Programs focus heavily on providing maternal and developmental care for Guatemala's rural and indigenous populations.

MTI Volunteer in Action: Guatemala

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Every gift makes a difference:

$100 pays for a latrine to prevent cholera and helps save the life of a child.

$130 provides a clean-burning stove, which can prevent pneumonia & other respiratory ailments

$500 allows one community mother counselor to train 10 families in proper sanitation & health practices for one year


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