by Rachel Wong

With 17.5 million people, Guatemala is Central America’s largest nation–yet it has one of the highest socioeconomic disparities and poverty levels worldwide. The burden of COVID-19 is crippling healthcare systems and adding to a growing list of issues the country’s population is facing: extreme poverty, violence, drought, and lack of government accountability. Currently, there are 32,074 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Among them, 4,624 have recovered and 1,350 have died. These numbers are, however, deceptively low, as Guatemala faces shortages in COVID-19 tests and long wait time for results. The town of Santiago, for example, has 0 reported cases.

According to the World Health Organization (2018), there are only 3.5 doctors and 0.7 nurses per 10,000 people in Guatemala. Healthcare professionals are battling COVID-19 with a lack of PPE, inadequate facilities, and severe delays in salary payments. Multiple hospitals are being rebuilt to meet the demands of COVID-19. Nationally, there are 300 intensive care beds when 900 are needed. With only 0.6 hospital beds per 1000 habitants and only a handful of working ventilators, the Guatemalan healthcare system is on the brink of collapse. The worst may be yet to come as projections expect the coronavirus peak to occur between August and September, but this is constantly changing.

So, what is Saving Mothers doing?

In coordination with the Ministry of Health, our team in Guatemala is helping compile a list of COVID positive patients. In June and July, our team participated in COVID-19 protocol training with the Saving Mothers medical team in the U.S. We have developed a COVID-19 training specifically for elderly comadronas and held small group sessions to prepare for upcoming changes in home visits. Collectively, we have created a COVID-19 home health visit protocol and just began testing it out last week. The team has also been busy creating culturally appropriate educational materials on COVID in Tz’utujil and Spanish, as well as a series of informational videos on COVID and pregnancy for the public. We are hoping to publish our COVID response to help other low and middle income countries cope with the pandemic.

Our team is also on the ground raising money to buy food and supplies for families in need!

What can you do to help?

Donate to Saving Mothers. $25 provides 1 COVID kit to our partners in Guatemala and Kenya. It includes PPE, hand sanitizer, and other essential items!

COVID Kits in Guatemala

For more updates from Guatemala, watch the recording of our live webinar from July 23rd, 2020:

Rachel is a summer intern at Saving Mothers and a medical student in the Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program.

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