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 rates of maternal and infant mortality in Latin America. Not only rural areas face challenges, however; urban migration has increased the number of unplanned settlements on the outskirts of Guatemala City which are 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 improving their resiliency to disasters and other shocks.
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 Casa Materna for care, monitoring and safe delivery.
In 2013, more than 1,000 newborn caregivers were trained 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.
WOMEN’S ECONOMIC & SOCIAL EMPOWERMENT
Since 2012 PCI has implemented the Women Empowered (WE) Initiative in Guatemala, an integrated economic and social empowerment program that organizes women into groups where they pool their own resources, engage in productive activities and discuss community and social issues of mutual concern. At the national level, over 10,100 individuals (mostly women) have joined 495 savings groups which have collectively mobilized more than $144,000 in savings.
- Women Empowered groups have granted over 2,200 small loans to women, amounting to more than $101,000 invested in the health, education and productivity of Guatemalan families.
Once established and operational, WE groups become a sustainable, ongoing business and economic development platform that is entirely directed and administered by the members themselves, without outside management, resources or long-term external support.
IMPROVING LIVELIHOODS & REDUCING VULNERABILITY
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 Integradas de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional del Occidente), seeks to reduce food insecurity among 26,000 vulnerable, rural households. The program focuses on increasing economic productivity, reducing chronic malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women and children under five and increasing community resilience to disasters and shocks. For example, in the area of food security, PCI is working with 21 Agriculture Leaders and 95 Agriculture Promoters who work side by side with participating families on activities aimed at increasing availability and access to nutritious vegetable and animal sources of macro and micronutrients. Key activities include development of home gardens, poultry production and postharvest management, as well as establishing drip irrigation systems to use wisely what little water is available during the dry season.
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 school fairs that enable students to share nutrition, environment and youth leadership messages with other community members. Complementary activities such as solar disinfection of water, infrastructure improvements and the development of school gardens are also improving the quality of education and the health of children, teachers and communities.
TRANSFORMING URBAN, HIGH-RISK NEIGHBORHOODS
Barrio Mío is a collaboration between PCI and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) designed to transform high-risk urban neighborhoods in Guatemala into a resilient, safe and productive communities. As a model for urban renewal, Barrio Mío is 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 is using the strategy of demonstration, replication and dissemination to achieve maximum scope, impact and sustainability to reduce Guatemala’s susceptibility to disasters, strengthen municipal capacity to manage growth, improve shelters and reconfigure dangerous settlements, improve water and sanitation infrastructure, and develop the economic assets of vulnerable households.
CURRENT FUNDING PARTNERS
United States Department of Agriculture, USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Save the Children, and other public and private donors.