The state of women’s and children’s health in rural Guatemala in 2020 is alarming, particularly the health of women of childbearing years and their babies.
For example, did you know that nearly 30 out of 1,000 mothers in Guatemala will lose their babies due to a lack of basic education, hygiene, and medical care?
Of the children who are born safely, 50% will face chronic malnutrition between the ages of 0-5 and will suffer permanent, long-term physical consequences from the lack of proper nutrition.
In response to this great need, MercyWorks sponsors a network of ministries known collectively as the Bethany Center. A combination of four locations spread throughout rural Guatemala, this mission exists to provide food, healthcare services, education, training, and general support to the poorest of the poor and specifically to women and young children in need in the area.
A Snapshot of Women’s and Children’s Health in 2020
Guatemala has some of the poorest outcomes for maternal and infant health across all of Latin America. One of the largest contributing factors to these poor outcomes is the inequality that exists between the rural and urban communities and the indigenous and non-indigenous populations. Guatemala has some of the highest rates of social and economic inequality in the world — 54% of the population lives in poverty, and 13% lives in extreme poverty.
Key Facts about Infant, Child, and Maternal Health in Guatemala
Infants, children, and mothers in rural areas are at a greater risk for serious health complications than those in urban areas. Both adults and children are twice as likely to experience chronic malnutrition (66 percent vs. 31 percent). When comparing indigenous to non-indigenous populations, the infant mortality rate was 25 percent higher among the indigenous communities.
The primary causes of death in children under 5 are neonatal deaths, diarrhea, and pneumonia. The primary causes of maternal mortality are hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders in pregnancy including eclampsia and pre-eclampsia, and infections.
Other key statistics that paint a more complete picture of the major health issues facing Guatemalan families include:
- 30 percent of women in rural areas do not have access to clean sanitation facilities
- 13 percent of women and children in rural areas still do not have access to clean drinking water
- Maternal mortality rate: 73 per 1,000 live births
- Infant mortality rate: 25 per 1,000 live births
- Children under 5 mortality rate: 32 per 1,000 live births
The Bethany Center: Addressing Major Health Issues in Guatemala
The Bethany Center is a ministry that serves the poorest of the poor — particularly women and children — in Guatemala. The center is collectively made up of four locations 1) the central urban center in the city of Coban Alta Verapaz, 2) the Infant and Maternity Center in San Benito Lachua, and 3) and 4) two smaller commodores (dining rooms) which serve remote villages in the mountains.
The goal of the Bethany Center (Centro Betania) network in Guatemala is to care in a special way for these women and children, reaching out to the most vulnerable and offering them a helping hand.
For more than 5 years now, the Bethany Center has supported the families of rural Guatemala by offering hearty meals, medical care and attention, education for young children, training programs that improve the women’s ability to earn a living, space for Guatemalan families to socialize and build community, and spiritual, mental, and physical refreshment.
The central urban center is just down the hill from where El Calvario (parish) is located off a main city street. This center draws people from within and outside of the city. Many take long, crowded bus rides from the rural villages into the city to attend this center, many as frequently as five days a week. The families who come to the center are quite poor and the main meal they receive here is likely the most substantial and nutritious they will consume that day.
I want to help the Bethany Center! How can I get involved?
Prior to COVID-19, the soup kitchens at the Bethany Center were feeding approximately 250 children, ages 4-14, daily. Right now, the center is receiving an overwhelming number of requests for food assistance. Families are out of work and cannot afford to put food on their children's plates.
Many of these families would come to our soup kitchens weekly to receive hot meals, but they are currently closed because of COVID-19. So we are bringing food to them.
A gift of $60 feeds a family for one month — will you help feed the hungry in Guatemala? Through your generosity, we can alleviate some of the suffering that Guatemalans are currently experiencing. Thank you in advance for your generous support!