Guatemala: MSF active in emergencies
20 October 1999
Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in early November 1998, MSF teams provided assistance in Guatemala City, Escuintla and Izabal. Activities included medical consultations, cholera prevention, epidemiological surveillance and logistical support. During the second half of 1998, MSF intervened in the north of Guatemala City and the region around Peten during several cholera outbreaks. Teams provided support to epidemiological surveillance, provided water and sanitation assistance, screened for cholera, set up cholera units, retrained health workers, provided health information and supplied medicine and medical material to health structures. Following flooding in San Marcos in October 1998, MSF provided support to health structures and set up temporary shelters. In Guatemala City, MSF focuses its project on marginalised children and adolescents. MSF helped create an aid agency called APRI with provides sanitation assistance and carries out health education. In collaboration with a local NGO, CASA ALLIANZA, MSF set up Rescate, a day centre which provides medical assistance to a thousand street children each year. The team also raises awareness on the plight of these children. Until April 1999, MSF helped hospital staff upgrade patient care and hygiene in the paediatric service of San Juan de Dios hospital. Until February 1999, MSF intervened in five overcrowded detention centres for minors between 12 and 18 years of age, MSF's objective is to improve living conditions in the centres for the 5,000 detainees and to ensure their access to health care. In the impoverished slums of Lomas de Santa Fez, where an estimated 1,100 families live MSF teams run a medicalised nursery named the Casa del Patojo. They provide psychological support for mothers and children and help strengthen the mother/child bond. MSF also carries out home visits. Until the end of 1998, MSF provided aid in four urban slums of Guatemala City, three of which are situated on the city's rubbish dump. MSF provided sanitation assistance, water supply and constructed two community halls and rehabilitated the health centre. MSF runs several projects to control the spread of HIV/AIDS/STDs. Projects run in two metropolitan townships of Guatemala City: Milagro and El Mezquital and in the country's second largest city, Quetzaltenango. Activities include the distribution of information, raising awareness and training staff in techniques for better dealing with STDs. MSF has supplied medical equipment to many clinics and laboratories. MSF runs a community health and sanitation project in Barillas in the Southwestern province of Huehuetenango. The aim of the project is to provide primary health care and basic sanitation services to the 54 most isolated villages in the north of the country. In the fourth-quarter of 1998, MSF launched a support programme for the health district of Livingston in Izabal, in order to improve the population's access to health care. The project involves the division of Livingston into Livingston and Fronteras. MSF teams focus on organisation, planning and management of Fronteras. They are trying to improve mother and child health, water and sanitation, vaccination coverage and are training health care workers.