Guatemala – According to the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), over 6 million people in Guatemala lack access to basic health and nutrition services. Widespread malnutrition has caused Guatemala to have the fifth highest rate in the world of stunted growth in children, and lack of access to health care and education contributes to high teenage pregnancy rates and frightening maternal mortality rates.
In the town of Cobán, a medical mission group supported by MAP is working to improve these dismal statistics for local Guatemalans, with the goal of helping the community become self-sustaining in meeting their own health care needs.
Dr. Eric Bertelsen, the pharmacist on the mission team, describes the people of Cobán as incredibly hardworking. “The daily life of the residents in Cobán is very hard and requires a lot of manual labor,” he says.
For most of us here in the U.S., if we are tired and achy from a strenuous day of manual labor or have put in a hard day of yard work, we can take some pain reliever that we have on hand and get some quick relief. For those in Cobán, who have very little access to medical care, much less medicine, this is not an option. They simply have to deal with their aches and pains.
During their week at the clinic in Cobán, Dr. Bertelsen was able to provide acetaminophen and ibuprofen from MAP for many patients who had been suffering from consistent body aches and pains due to the strenuous demands of their daily lives. Being able to provide those people with a simple product that would give them some relief was an incredible blessing.
Dr. Bertelsen also reports being able to serve many pregnant women, and young women who were of childbearing age, with prenatal vitamins from MAP. Because prenatal care is not often available to women in Cobán, most expecting mothers simply do without when it comes to extra nutrition or supplements during their pregnancy. These prenatal vitamins, says Dr. Bertelsen, “are very important to fetal development and the health of the mother.”
With the medicine they brought from MAP, Dr. Bertelsen and the mission team were able to care for 110 people during their visit – and they plan to return. While many of the solutions that they offered to patients may seem simple to us – over the counter pain relievers, vitamins, or antibiotics – they are life-changing for people who usually have access to nothing.