Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 10: Healthy "Choices"?

Lots more pictures can be found at

Besides viewing work that CAUSE has already accomplished in Guatemala (see Day 10 blog), we visited community health units to start the needs assessment of requirements for CAUSE’s new initiative through the matching grant from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development. This project – to improve maternal and child health – is the project that many of you have contributed to through your generous donations to CAUSE ( when you specify the “Old Guys Guatemala” project.
Bev with one of the midwives. 
As we surveyed the health units, we saw that maternal and child health care was sadly lacking. Cause’s program, over 4 years, has the potential to make a huge difference. Communities that were lucky enough to have a concrete building for a health centre had one to three small, cold rooms and were equipped with a rope hanging from the ceiling with which babies were weighed. They also had posters addressing health concerns such as how to properly wash and feed the babies. The irony is that for many, there is no running water and very little in the way of food. The health units also have no running water or bathrooms inside. Only one of the units we saw had a pila (outdoor sink) with a tap – albeit with no handle. There was a pair of pliers kept on the pila to turn the water on and off.
Health posters in the sparsely equipped clinic
 The units also had limited supplies, such as: stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and some immunization materials. Each health centre had a nurse assigned to it, as well as a non-accredited facilitator, often without medical training. It appears the nurses were hired as auxiliary nurses (assuming less accreditation required than a nurse-and less pay).

One unit we saw was fortunate to have a full-fledged nurse – although she was paid as an auxiliary nurse. She was very knowledgeable, but somewhat discouraged with the work to be done and lack of supplies and help with which to do it. Like her colleagues in other communities, she had a wide swath of area to cover and only her feet with which to get her there. We asked her how long it took her to get to her farthest designated community, and she said just over one hour – if she walks fast – carrying supplies – and then an hour plus back after a long hard day of visit made all the more difficult by the high incidence of malnourishment.
As Ross mentioned in the Day 6 post, the nurses are able to get to each community about once a month. This leaves the health unit either locked up or with the un-trained facilitator in charge. In the case of the baby who died that Ross told you about, it appears that the facilitator made a judgement call that a trained nurse would not have made – with sad consequences.
The challenges for CAUSE are many. Bev Carrick wisely wants to work with health units and nurses that are already in place – thus not duplicating services. This means forming or building on relationships with governments, NGOs, the communities and the nurses, facilitators and local midwives. This requires skill, knowledge and diplomacy – something CAUSE clearly has mastered. I would say that Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has picked the right organization for this task – CAUSE for the Cause! I want to be on the list of those come back in 4 years and see the results of CAUSE’s work!



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