MNCH: Canadian Delegates Witness Strength and Resilience in Totonicapán

From February 17-26th, Horizons is leading a delegation of Canadian medical professionals around Guatemala with two goals in mind:

  1. Facilitate the sharing of knowledge, experiences and practices between Guatemalan and Canadian health practitioners., and,

  2. Bear witness to the impact Horizon's MNCH project is having in Totonicapán, a primarily Indigenous Maya department in Guatemala.

 

 Dr. Robert Hall, one of the Canadian delegates, resting in Santa Maria Chiquimula.

Dr. Robert Hall, one of the Canadian delegates, resting in Santa Maria Chiquimula.

Over the course of the trip, the group has been visiting a variety of front-line healthcare establishments in Totonicapán, including Health Posts, Health Centres, and the Totonicapán Departmental Hospital. These visits are giving the delegates the opportunity to see first-hand the challenges in the Guatemalan healthcare system.

 Leann Cunningham [center] and group members take in a presentation at the Santa María Chiquimula Health Centre

Leann Cunningham [center] and group members take in a presentation at the Santa María Chiquimula Health Centre

The group is quickly learning that there are major hurdles and gaps in health services within the department. A critical lack of medical supplies and equipment, extremely limited physical space for patients and a shortage of desperately-needed staff. These are just some of the issues more than 550,000 people who call Totonicapán home face on a daily basis.

 Basic but vital equipment like stethoscopes, syringes and antibiotics are often in short supply

Basic but vital equipment like stethoscopes, syringes and antibiotics are often in short supply

Despite this grim reality, healthcare professionals including doctors and nurses, and traditional, Indigenous midwives manage to find the strength and resilience to continue providing crucial health services in their communities.

 Traditional, Indigenous midwives perform a birth simulation, using equipment provided through Horizons and PIES de Occidente's MNCH project with support from the Government of Canada

Traditional, Indigenous midwives perform a birth simulation, using equipment provided through Horizons and PIES de Occidente's MNCH project with support from the Government of Canada

On February 23rd, the group of Canadians met directly with Totonicapán Health Directorate representatives and traditional Indigenous midwives for a workshop to exchange perspectives and practices concerning maternal and child health. Despite being thousands of kilometers apart and approaching health care delivery in different ways, Canadian and Guatemalan health practitioners realized that their mission remains the same: ensuring women and children lead full, healthy lives.

 (Left to Right) Juana Maria, a Totonicapán Health Directorate representative joins traditional Indigenous midwives Angela Perez and Maria Batz, alongside Inuit midwife Cas Connelly, in discussing the situation of Indigenous Maya K'iche' and Inuit women and children in Totonicapán and Nunavut

(Left to Right) Juana Maria, a Totonicapán Health Directorate representative joins traditional Indigenous midwives Angela Perez and Maria Batz, alongside Inuit midwife Cas Connelly, in discussing the situation of Indigenous Maya K'iche' and Inuit women and children in Totonicapán and Nunavut

A key issue that the group learned about throughout the exchange was chronic malnutrition, a daunting problem affecting infants and children in Totonicapán's rural communities. In the municipality of Santa María Chiquimula, 4 out of 5 infants are chronically malnourished. Not only do children often go hungry, but they will not grow and development adequately, too

 A young girl holding her mother's hand in Patachaj, Totonicapán, Guatemala.

A young girl holding her mother's hand in Patachaj, Totonicapán, Guatemala.

Horizons' longstanding NGO local partner, PIES de Occidente, and the Guatemalan Ministry of Health in Totonicapán are working to address chronic malnutrition through the Maternal, Newborn, and Child-Health project, with funding from Horizons and the Government of Canada. Totonicapán's network of health service centres and posts are being stocked with two food supplements rich in protein, micronutrients, and carbohydrates. The MNCH project provides pregnant women and new mothers with Incaparina to supplement their regular diets. Mothers with infants 6-24 months old will also receive the Mi Comidita supplement especially formulated for their babies as they transition from exclusive breastfeeding to solid food.

The aim is to help reduce malnutrition related deaths and illnesses in one of the most malnourished populations in Latin America.

 Pies de Occidente and Ministry of Health staff train pregnant and breastfeeding women on the use and benefits of Incaparina in Patachaj, Totonicapán.

Pies de Occidente and Ministry of Health staff train pregnant and breastfeeding women on the use and benefits of Incaparina in Patachaj, Totonicapán.

Advertisements promoting Incaparina can be found at hospitals, health-centres, and health-posts across Totonicapán, encouraging pregnant women and mothers to collect their packages, free of charge.

 An Incaparina advertisement at Totonicapán's Patachaj Health Post.

An Incaparina advertisement at Totonicapán's Patachaj Health Post.

When prepared, Incaparina resembles a traditional beverage known as "atole de elote". This resemblance makes Incaparina widely accepted among pregnant and breastfeeding women in Indigenous communities.

 Consumed hot, Incaparina is a thick, yellow beverage with a slightly sweet, corn flavour. This beverage provides women with essential nutrients and vitamins

Consumed hot, Incaparina is a thick, yellow beverage with a slightly sweet, corn flavour. This beverage provides women with essential nutrients and vitamins


Making a monetary donation is one of the ways you can support our Maternal, Newborn, and Child-Health project in Totonicapán, Guatemala. Your donation will provide women with Incaparina, and help to re-supply medical equipment in hospitals, health-centres, and health-posts across Totonicapán. Make an impact today.