Tuesday, March 8, 2016
International Women's Day 2016: 5 Facts About Being a Mother in Guatemala
Imagine waking up to the sound of water running. You are lying on the dirt floor of your one-room home, with a straw mat as a bed and a bundle of clothes as a pillow. You get up and find that there is a stream running through your kitchen; rain from the night before, flowing down the mountain and into the middle of your house. You begin to build a fire in a dry corner and prepare food for your husband and five children. Your husband hasn’t been able to find work recently because of the rainy season and there hasn’t been a lot of money, so breakfast will be stale tortillas and coffee. Now imagine that you are doing these tasks while seven months pregnant.
Photo credit: Juan Haro
Unfortunately, this is a very common scenario for many indigenous women in rural Guatemala. In these kinds of situations, maternal health is a huge issue not just for the mother but also for the family as a whole. This is the reality on the ground that we work with every day in Guatemala:
- On average, Guatemalan women will have 4 children in their lifetime. However, indigenous women have an average of 7.5 children each.1 This is one of the highest fertility rates in Central America.
- Many women in Guatemala marry and have children at a very young age. This can have serious, long-term consequences for both the physical and emotional health of the mother and the child.
- Many indigenous women are accompanied through pregnancy and birth by a traditional midwife, or a comadrona. Comadronas are well-versed in traditional, herbal medicine and provide medical and spiritual guidance for the mothers. Women often feel more comfortable with comadronas because they are women from their own culture who provide care in the mother’s native language.
- Language differences are often a huge barrier to proper healthcare in rural Guatemala. Doctors and healthcare providers often do not speak the local indigenous language, so as a result women who do not speak Spanish often cannot take advantage of prenatal care at their local health posts.
- On average, 88 out of every 100,000 women die in childbirth in Guatemala. In comparison, only 14 out of every 100,000 women die in childbirth in the United States.
The dire state of maternal health in Guatemala is exacerbated by extreme poverty, cultural differences between indigenous and non-indigenous populations, and low governmental spending on public healthcare. However, Mayan Families is working hard to close the gap and bring world-class care to mothers who need it most. Our Well Mother Well Baby program provides nutritional support and offers educational workshops to new mothers and their children to improve maternal health and reduce chronic malnutrition in communities around Lake Atitlán. Additionally, the Charlie Gomez Medical Clinic provides culturally sensitive care, essential medications, and vitamins to women who would not otherwise be able to have access to healthcare.
Photo credit: Juan Haro
To help us in our fight to improve the lives of mothers in Guatemala, please consider donating to the Charlie Gomez Medical Clinic today!
Source: 1. "Guatemala." Health in the Americas, 2007. Volume II.