Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America, with roughly 53% of its population living in poverty. In rural areas, such as the Western Highlands, food insecurity is wide-spread and affects the most vulnerable such as children and indigenous groups. Additionally, in remote, isolated communities the majority of women still give birth at home, contributing to one of the highest infant mortality rates in Latin America. Not only rural areas face challenges, however; urban migration has caused unplanned settlements on the outskirts of Guatemala City to be highly susceptible to natural and other disasters.
PCI began working in Guatemala in 1974, bringing basic health care to Mayan communities around Lake Atitlan. Throughout the 1980s, during the civil war that ravaged Guatemala, PCI trained an extensive network of volunteers and local leaders to deliver health services to families in need. Building on four decades of experience, PCI continues to work with Guatemalan communities to improve the lives of vulnerable populations. PCI is currently implementing various projects designed to diversify agricultural practices, improve the health and nutritional status of women and children and assist communities in preparing for and withstanding disasters.
MATERNAL & CHILD HEALTH LEGACY PROGRAM: CASA MATERNA
In 2000, PCI established Casa Materna (Mother’s House), an integrated reproductive and maternal and child health program that provides outreach, and education services, out-patient clinical services, a pediatric clinic and an inpatient facility for women with high-risk pregnancies. Each year, PCI trains hundreds of community health workers, including traditional birth attendants to identify women with high-risk pregnancies and refer them to the Casa Materna for care, monitoring and safe delivery.
Casa Materna continues to thrive thanks to the Izumi Foundation through the Better Infant and Reproductive Total Health project. Over 900 mothers with low birth weight or pre-term babies have participated in Kangaroo Mother Care, an innovative and effective method to ensure warmth through skin-to-skin contact of the mother and baby’s bodies, greatly reducing neonatal mortality.
- PCI helped reduce maternal mortality in the municipality of Todos Santos to zero deaths in 2011.
FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY THROUGH VULNERABILITY REDUCTION
In collaboration with Save the Children, PCI is implementing a six-year integrated food security program in Guatemala’s Western Highlands. The program, named PAISANO (Programa de Acciones Integrada de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional del Occidente), seeks to reduce food insecurity among 26,000 vulnerable, rural households. The program focuses on three key objectives: 1) Increasing economic productivity; 2) Reducing chronic malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women and children under 5; and 3) Increasing community resilience to disasters and shocks. PAISANO strategies utilized to achieve these objectives include growth monitoring and promotion; distribution of food to vulnerable families; formation of Community Health, Food and Nutrition Security Committees; and formation of Care Groups with Lead Mothers.
INCREASING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT & HEALTH
Since 2010, the US Department of Agriculture-funded Food for Education program has flourished in six municipalities of Huehuetenango. Focusing on girls and indigenous populations, the program is designed to increase enrollment, retention and attendance rates of pre- and primary-school students through the provision of daily school breakfasts. PCI is also reaching parents with health and hygiene, nutrition and food security, and gender equity trainings as well as hosting health fairs that enable students to share nutrition, environment and youth leadership messages with other community members. Complementary activities such as de-worming, solar disinfection of water, infrastructure improvements, the development of school gardens, and the use of environmentally friendly stoves are also improving the quality of education and the life of children, teachers and communities.
Over the next 3 years, a follow-on program will reach a total of 54,780 beneficiaries, including students, parents and teachers. Program sustainability is being achieved through capacity building and engagement of key government ministries and parent-teacher associations.
TRANSFORMING URBAN, HIGH-RISK NEIGHBORHOODS
Barrio Mío is a 24-month collaboration between PCI and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance designed to transform a high-risk urban neighborhood in Guatemala (Mixco) into a resilient, safe and productive community as a model for urban renewal Barrio Mío will develop costeffective and scalable approaches for urban upgrading and risk reduction based on a “Neighborhood Approach;” an integrated, participatory and consultative planning process that mobilizes local communities in identifying and addressing their own development needs based on available resources and local solutions. PCI will use the strategy of demonstration, replication and dissemination to achieve maximum scope, impact and sustainability to reduce Mixco’s susceptibility to disasters, strengthen municipal capacity to manage growth, improve shelters and reconfigure dangerous settlements, improve water and sanitation infrastructure, and develop economic assets of Mixco’s most vulnerable households. Innovative use of GIS mapping and financing for shelter improvements will help make Barrio Mio as impactful as possible.
Izumi Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture, USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Save the Children, and other public and private donors.