Pueblo a Pueblo’s Maternal Child Health program (MCH) is designed to reduce the exceptionally high maternal and infant mortality rates among the T’zutujil Maya in the Santiago Atitlán region. The World Health Organization reports that Guatemala has the highest maternal mortality rate in Central America.
MCH creates a consistent, one-to-one partnership between international sponsors and Guatemalan families, giving mothers and their children in rural Guatemala crucial medical and educational support through the most vulnerable periods of pregnancy and birth through the age of five. MCH provides this outreach via a partnership with a community-based health center that sends social workers, nurses, and midwives into the community to work directly with families.
Pueblo a Pueblo initiated MCH largely to address maternal and infant mortality. However, most mothers participate out of concern for the health of their newborn infants and young children. In a region where a typical income is between $2 and $4 US dollars a day, many mothers face the difficult choice between feeding their family and taking a sick child to the doctor.
The high cost of medical care causes parents to hesitate when they should act, sometimes with deadly consequences. Waiting too long to see a doctor has already cost the lives of two young children with pneumonia in the region in early 2013. When the cost of medical services is eliminated and mothers are educated about good health care, they take their children to the doctor at the first sign of illness and get the treatment they need.
Education is a fundamental aspect of MCH. Recognizing the signs of a serious illness or delivery complications can be as critical as having access to medical care, and knowing how to prevent sickness and responding to problems quickly is equally important. MCH gives mothers (and a few fathers) monthly workshops on topics like reproductive health, vaccines, preventable illness, nutrition, hygiene, post-partum depression, stress, and more. Social workers and other MCH staff work to define the training topics while keeping the schedule flexible to address critical needs in the community.
MCH workshops often cover topics that have long been virtually taboo in Guatemala communities, such as family planning, preventing sexually transmitted disease, and domestic violence. Family planning, in particular, can be an extremely important, but volatile, subject. In a community where families of eight or more children are not uncommon, family size can mean the difference between having food and malnutrition, health and illness, and education and illiteracy. When families have good information, they can make better choices for their own future. MCH makes it possible for women to receive Depo-Provera shots and other family-planning methods in private. As well as obtaining the opportunity to discuss their options openly and safely with other women from the community.
MCH empowers women by teaching them how to overcome the limitations caused by a lack of formal education and misleading traditional beliefs that have been passed on from one generation to the next.
Who Benefits from this project?
There are 60 participants in Pueblo a Pueblo’s Maternal-Child Health (MCH) Program. Although maternal health is big part of the program, most mothers participate in MCH to receive free or reduced-cost medical care for their children.
“When your child is sick, you say to yourself, ‘Where can we find the money?’ We only have enough for a little food,” says Juana, a mother in the program.
Pueblo a Pueblo is expanding its MCH program with peer-to-peer educators. Early this year, Pueblo a Pueblo selected 20 MCH mothers with strong leadership and communication skills to be trained to share their knowledge with members of the community and to mentor new MCH mothers.
“We want the women to become maternal health advocates in their communities,” says Rosemary Trent, executive director. “They become the messengers. The transfer of knowledge goes from us to the mothers and from the mothers to their children and the community around them. That’s what leads to sustainability.”
“MCH really empowers these women,” program manager Giorgia Lattanzi adds.
“We’re teaching them how to overcome the limitations caused by a lack of formal education and misleading traditional beliefs passed on from one generation to the next.”
A MCH mother puts it more simply: “The topics we learn about here have changed my life.”
How Can I Help?
One can help by becoming a Maternal Child Health Sponsor. Unfortunately, sponsors are hard to come by, and the emergency fund – which covers urgent issues like pneumonia, a baby born with HIV, delivery issues, etc. – is very small.
“Many people find it easier to donate to something tangible, like building a school,” Trent says. “Our donors must be the kind of people who can look further ahead and envision building a future for mothers and children.”
As a sponsor, you have the unique opportunity to make a real difference in someone’s life. Your sponsorship links you with a mother and child or student in Guatemala. Your ongoing contributions make it possible to gain access to health care, education, and a better quality of life for children, their families and communities.
Contact Name: Rosemary Trent
Location: Bethesda Md USA
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone Number: 202.302.0622