“The interests of the indigenous peoples must be part of the new development agenda in order for it to succeed. […] Together, let us recognize and celebrate the valuable and distinctive identities of indigenous peoples around the world. Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations. ”
– UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Every year, August 9th is commemorated as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day is celebrated not only at PCI, but also throughout the world, including at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
In Guatemala, most indigenous peoples are of Mayan descent and make up about half of the national population. Maya are dispersed throughout the country, especially in the remote western highlands.
Indigenous families in this region face extreme poverty and harsh living conditions. Families don’t have access to basic education and health services, and struggle against traditional prejudices that diminish their quality of life. And – as is the case in impoverished communities around the world – women and children are most at risk.
In 2000, we created the Casa Materna – in partnership with a local association of midwives – in the rural western highlands of Guatemala to reduce maternal and infant mortality. Since its inception, the Casa has literally saved the lives of hundreds of mothers and their babies as well as strengthened and empowered countless Guatemalan communities.
The Casa provides critically needed clinical reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services. Women with high-risk pregnancies are referred to the Casa inpatient facility for care and monitoring during the final weeks of their pregnancies, and are then transferred to the neighboring district hospital for delivery. In addition, the Casa supports community education and networks of women’s support groups.
Since 2003, we have helped save the lives of over 18,000 pregnant women by ensuring the safe deliveries of their newborns.
As we celebrate the world’s indigenous peoples, we at PCI in particular want to shine a spotlight on the Mayan communities in the remote highlands of Guatemala and their need for improved health services. Casa Materna provides a lifeline for expectant mothers and their babies. One important way you can support our work in Guatemala and around the world is by making an online gift today.