Extreme poverty, malnutrition and poor sanitation impact Guatemala
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Community Health and Healthy Women.
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, an estimated 58 percent of Guatemalans live in poverty. The majority of the poorest are indigenous people of Mayan descent living in rural areas. Infant and maternal mortality rates among these groups are alarmingly high. Chronic malnutrition in children under five ranks as the highest in the Western Hemisphere. USAID’s Global Health Initiative says the rate is 59% for rural children and 66% for indigenous children. These high malnutrition rates have long term health, education and economic consequences for those who suffer from it.
Unfortunately, there has been very little progress in reducing chronic malnutrition. Less than half of Guatemala's rural residents have access to running water, a quarter have electricity at home and less than 10 percent have modern sanitary facilities. Dental decay is also a serious problem for many Guatemalans because access to dental care is limited and in the rural areas it is nonexistent.
Our work in Guatemala
In July 2010, Medical Teams International established a community health and nutrition project in the San Juan Chamelco municipality in the department of Alta Verapaz.
The children and women in San Juan Chamelco are particularly susceptible to chronic illnesses. The three biggest killers of children are acute respiratory infection, malnutrition and diarrhea, all preventable diseases. Over half of the children in the municipality of San Juan Chamelco are malnourished, affecting their physical and mental potential for the rest of their lives. Women also struggle disproportionately from malnutrition and birth related deaths.
Medical Teams International is working to improve the health of San Juan Chamelco by focusing on prevention and community case management of malnutrition, acute respiratory infection and diarrhea while simultaneously improving maternal health. In coordination with community, church, and government health officials, MTI is implementing a comprehensive portfolio of results-oriented activities to address these preventable diseases.
To date, we have trained and are actively working alongside more than 400 community volunteers in 22 communities in San Juan Chamelco. Through this network of committed volunteers, MTI Guatemala’s small staff is able to:
- Conduct monthly growth monitoring and counseling sessions for children.
- Offer emergency food supplements for severely malnourished children.
- Educate families on the identification and treat of childhood illnesses.
- Change bad health behaviors through strategic health trainings.
- Establish community pharmacies to create access to life saving, low-cost medications.
- Build ventilated stoves, water-systems and sanitary latrines to create an environment for health.
- Train community midwives to better care for pregnant women and to attend safe births.
- Ensure essential vaccinations are provided; among other activities.
Volunteer Seth Gary returns from Guatemala
MTI Volunteer Seth Gary recounts his trip to Guatemala with a volunteer team who was part of our Community Health program.
See his video and learn how you can help support our Clean Water and Clean Air programs with a donation through our Gift Catalog.
Plans for 2012-2013
This year, Medical Teams International will grow our support to new communities within the municipality of San Juan Chamelco, Alta Verapaz. Additionally, Medical Teams International will send $500,000 of medical supplies, equipment and pharmaceuticals to help supply rural health posts throughout the department of Alta Verapaz. Through our programs, Medical Teams International will improve the health of more than 60,000 Guatemalans this year.
Additionally, Medical Teams International will send 19 volunteer teams to support our work in San Juan Chamelco and two additional volunteer dental teams to support the work of our partner Agros International in the Ixil region. Teams will focus on health training, community health focused work projects and dental health. Volunteers participating on work teams will contribute to community health through the construction of indoor cook stoves, water sanitation systems, reforestation of micro-watersheds and construction of sanitary latrines.
To support MTI’s work in Guatemala, please make a donation today. Interested in being part of a medical, dental or work team? Learn more about becoming a volunteer.
To keep up to date on Medical Teams International’s work in Guatemala, visit and like our Facebook page.
For a selection of photos of our work, see the Guatemala work teams' video.
Our partners in Guatemala
Medical Teams International-Guatemala was established in 2009 and is currently supporting community based maternal and child health programs aimed at reducing malnutrition of children under five, improving maternal health and reducing basic chronic childhood illnesses including diarrhea and acute respiratory illnesses. Medical Teams International-Guatemala is currently serving over 60,000 people in Alta Verapaz.
Food for the Hungry began working in Guatemala in 1976. The organization operates innovative development programs in 2 regions and 32 communities, assisting families, leaders and churches in their struggle to overcome poverty.
Agros International began its programs in Latin America in 1982. Agros has helped families in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Chiapas, Mexico build self-sustaining and thriving communities. Agros works to provide landless, rural, poor families access to agricultural land, long-term credit, and training, so families are able to start, develop and eventually own an economically sustainable village.
Please donate or volunteer to help save lives in Guatemala.