Peace Corps Volunteers Address Rural Home Preventative Health Issues in Guatemala
Guatemala is the victim of many things: poverty, disease and 36 years of guerrilla warfare which, according to the CIA World Factbook, left more than 100,000 people dead until the signing of the 1996 peace accord which officially ended the violence.
Despite the benefits Guatemala’s agricultural sector has reaped due to the signing of the CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), as well as the assistance citizens receive as the “top remittance recipient in Central America” due to its large expat community in the U.S., the nation continues to struggle. The CIA projects that 2009 will be especially difficult for Guatemala as the global economic slowdown will discourage foreign investment and export demands from abroad.
But all this is just the broader picture.
A closer look at society reveals that one of the biggest concerns for Guatemalans relates to rural home preventative health measures. The degree of illness is high in the country, especially for food and waterborne disease like bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever, as well as vectorborne disease like dengue fever and malaria and water contact disease like leptospirosis.
No doubt these health concerns contribute to the country’s high infant mortality rate which the CIA has broken down accordingly:
total: 27.84 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 30.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 25.35 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Compare that to the United States:
total: 6.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.55 deaths/1,000 live births
Recognizing the need to promote home preventative health practices in Guatemala, especially in rural areas, U.S. Peace Corps volunteers stationed in the country are working with local health centers to address these issues.
The Peace Corps Guatemala rural home preventative health program addresses vital basic needs at the grassroots level:
- It educates both local health leaders and rural families on topics such as basic hygiene, general health habits and HIV awareness;
- It leads initiatives to build the proper infrastructure needed to maintain sanitary conditions in rural homes and teaches people not only how to construct the necessary structures, but also the benefits of using and maintaining them
The results of this program: Rural Guatemalan families have access to safe drinking water, cleaner homes, safe floors, latrines and most of all, the knowledge they were previously lacking in rural home preventative health care. Needless to say, a sense of dignity and personal accomplishment also result from Guatemalans’ collaboration with Peace Corps volunteers in bettering their own lives.