CEDAR CITY, Utah — Guatemala’s health care system has difficulty reaching all of its citizens. This impact strikes in more than just the close personal circle of the sick. When health care is not a prevalent and accessible commodity it weighs down the happiness and well-being of affected people and large groups of people living without health care can prevent economic progress. Healthy people live longer, and their productivity is much better. Health care helps provide preventative means against disease spread, as well as treatment for when illness does hit. Guatemala’s shortcomings in this area ultimately affect those most in need of it. Fortunately there are many around the world with the resources that are building up Guatemala, its resources, and Guatemalans in need of help.
Needed Health Care
Over 50% of Guatemalans live below the poverty line with a further 23% of that population endeavoring to survive in extreme poverty. Around 23% of Guatemalan children die before the age of 5. More than 6 million Guatemalans cannot access basic health care to help themselves get better or even prevent themselves from getting sick in the first place.
People trying to just survive from day to day rarely have the funds or the time to reach out and receive the care they need. Many of the deaths in Guatemala are unfortunately due to preventable diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, pneumonia and more.
Malnutrition is another big cause of death and disease in Guatemala. The country has the fourth highest chronic rate of malnutrition in the world. Nearly 21,000 children under the age of 5 were counted in 2020 to be suffering from acute malnutrition. As said before, having good health care can have a critical effect on the economy of a country. Much of the country lives in rural areas with little access to clean water. These problems combined have led to difficulties in increasing the country’s infrastructure and developmental progress.
These struggles are heavily tied to the fact of the high percentage of Guatemalans living in poverty and the recent pandemic only increased Guatemalans living in poverty. “A lot of people here don’t have the money to go see a dentist,” a village leader in El Paredon, Guatemala explained to a group of dentists who had offered up their services to the small fishing town, who are building up Guatemala.
The importance of a smile may seem simple to many. But simple things can mean a lot to people with little. The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. John Voglo, a dentist from Mountain Home, Idaho, who recently returned from a humanitarian trip in cooperation with the Global Dental Partners. It is an organization that organizes trips for dentists to tend to those in developing countries with no or little access to dental care.
Dr. Vogl has visited Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama in cooperation with Global Dental Partners, as well as Smiles for Central America. His work has helped many. When asked why these trips are so important he replied, “I like not only serving others but doing it with family members alongside and helping…we feel we are making a difference in someone’s quality of life.” And indeed they are. From personal experience, he recalled that some people are hardly able to stop themselves from smiling. A good smile boosts confidence, and therefore the quality of life. There are many steps to building up Guatemala and the state of living, but Dr. Vogl’s work has definitely been a part of that growing effort.
International Reliefs Team
More has also helped in building up Guatemala’s health care. International Relief Teams has been around since 1988 and helping Guatemala since 1992. Its help extends beyond just sending food supplements to prevent child malnutrition. It also sends medical and reconstruction teams to restore infrastructure in developing countries such as Guatemala. Since its creation, it has sent $574 million worth of food to over 72 countries.
The importance of health care is clear from seeing the needs of others. There are so many countries with citizens in desperate need of so much in order to live a somewhat stable life. Not everyone can go to different countries and administer needed health care to those that need it. But supporting organizations that can reach out to those people is work that everyone can do. If everyone dropped a penny into a fountain, the fountain would soon be full of copper instead of water.
– Kelsey Jensen