Medical Teams International & Partners Urgently Fighting COVID-19 in Guatemala

Gift-in-kind medical supplies are delivered to the Guatemalan Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance at an event attended by Guatemalan President Giammattei and other cabinet officials (Source: Medical Teams International).

A health system near collapse. Rampant poverty in urban and rural areas. Lack of basic hygiene and sanitation in crowded communities. In Guatemala, without swift intervention and innovative partnerships, there exists a perfect storm of conditions to fuel the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Thanks in large part to generous partners like Becton, Dickinson and Company who have responded with urgency and compassion, Medical Teams International has been able to mount a significant COVID-19 prevention and treatment response in Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America.

Medical Teams’ work is in collaboration with and in support of the government’s response. To prevent a total collapse of the health system in Guatemala City, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance has asked Medical Teams to help respond to the crisis. (There are currently no other international NGOs responding to COVID-19 in the city.) Medical Teams has been supporting the Guatemala Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 response since March with training and supplies in the communities it serves.

A shipment of essential health supplies including those from Becton, Dickinson and Company, arrived in Guatemala City this spring to help equip a 3,000-bed hospital. The shipment was delivered to the Guatemalan Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance and unpacked at a special event attended by Guatemalan President Giammattei.

Miguel Angel Garcia, treasurer of the Community Health, Water and Sanitation Commission in Agua Blanca village in Chicaman, offers a donated handwashing kit with instructional messaging on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Source: Medical Teams International).

“Each one of us should do our part implementing the protective actions,” said Walter Lopez, Country Manager, Medical Teams Guatemala. “Our comprehensive response is possible only through the generosity of our partners.”

Medical Teams’ primary partner in Guatemala is Providence Saint Joseph Health, which supports implementation of the Chicamán Maternal and Child Program in 12 rural communities. The program contributes to improving the health status of mothers and children under two years by reducing the incidence of diarrhea, pneumonia, and underweight children, and improving access to quality maternal health services.

In response to COVID-19 in Guatemala, Medical Teams has been focusing on strengthening the health system, providing support to partners managing local health facilities through infection, prevention and control capacity building, and providing essential supplies and equipment. Medical Teams is also working to improve risk communication, surveillance, and case management, as well as working to reduce transmission by providing the means to maintain adequate hygiene in vulnerable communities.

For example, in Chicamán, Guatemala, 20 communities in which Medical Teams serves did not have handwashing facilities, making them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. In response, Medical Teams provided prevention training to all Community Health Water & Sanitation Commissions and replicated the messages through home visits. Afterward, handwashing kits were given to families in the Chicamán villages. With these new handwashing facilities, families can wash their hands frequently, and community leaders have expressed their gratitude.

Medical Teams is deeply grateful to all of its partners in the United States and in Guatemala who have given critically needed resources to contribute to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency response. For more information or to get involved, visit http://www.medicalteams.org.

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