Bringing Healthcare to Rural Communities in Guatemala

In conjunction with the American Red Cross organization, CHOICE Humanitarian in Guatemala provided medical support to rural communities that faced a serious shortage of healthcare workers after the 2020 hurricanes.

Medical Support Amidst Shortages

In the Alta Verapaz department of Guatemala the ratio of healthcare workers to civilians is 12.5 to 10,000, well below the recommended international density threshold of 44.5 to 10,000 individuals. This disparity in available medical healthcare to community members was further exacerbated by the 2020 Hurricanes Eta and Iota, which struck the country of Guatemala. Heavy rains caused flooding, landslides, and severe mudflows, completely devastating rural communities. These hurricanes left the people of Guatemala in dire need for support. In conjunction with the American Red Cross organization, CHOICE Humanitarian provided medical support to rural communities that faced a serious shortage of healthcare workers.

Guatemala LIFE Brings Vital Healthcare

An analysis of the health facilities and road network in Alta Verapaz found that 23% of the population live more than an hour away from any basic healthcare facility, and 71% of physicians are concentrated in metropolitan areas where there is better access to economic resources and public infrastructure. With nonexistent public transportation in rural areas—and impassable roads and travel costs as additional factors— it’s nearly impossible for indigenous people living in remote areas to travel to the nearest health center or hospital. The Mobile Medical Clinics project began in 2021 in response to these challenges.

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This project was part of the multi-year program, Guatemala LIFE, that CHOICE launched in 2020. With the financial support of Pat and Florence King, this program is designed to lift nearly 114,000 rural people out of multi-dimensional poverty. The program has four main goals of relief, food security, organizational capacity, and business and entrepreneurial development. The 2021 Mobile Medical Clinics project fits into the first of those goals, with additional projects and activities currently underway for the remaining goals.

Throughout the year, medical clinics serviced 24 communities in the Alta Verapaz area. Together with the Red Cross, the CHOICE country team in Guatemala traveled to these communities to give consultations and distribute resources donated by the Red Cross. This combined group of medical professionals and volunteers were able to provide solutions to a wide range of devastating health challenges. Diabetes, gastrointestinal infections, high blood pressure, and anemia are only a few of the most common crises that the Mobile Medical Clinics project addressed.

The Early Outcomes

Over 4,000 individuals have been impacted as a result of these medical clinics. Health has improved across all of the communities, and resources have been distributed to aid in further medical treatment. In addition to providing medical services, midwife trainings were also held in 10 communities to decrease the complications of childbirth often seen in rural areas. These efforts have led to self-reliance, medical care accessibility, and improved health, all vital components in supporting rural communities to elevate out of poverty.

Health Intervention for Maria

Maria Candelaria Choc is one of many who have been positively impacted by the Mobile Medical Clinics project. Maria, 82 years old, had been battling intense health challenges for years, and recently they had increased, putting her at high medical risk. In September 2021, she was brought to the clinic located in the community of Cerro Alto where Dr. Alejandra, a staff member of CHOICE, performed a physical examination. Maria’s vitals and blood pressure were evaluated, and she was found to have abnormally high glucose levels. Urgent action was taken to decrease these levels, and an intravenous serum was administered along with other corresponding medications. After a thorough evaluation, Maria’s physical condition was stabilized, and she was provided the necessary medications to maintain her condition.

Maria, seated, receives healthcare services in Guatemala from a mobile medical clinic

Situations like Maria’s are common in the rural communities of this region due to the serious shortage of healthcare workers in the country. However, with CHOICE’s support and involvement through medical clinics, patients are able to access medical care and have an improved quality of life.

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