Guatemala: Salesian health clinic provides medical care and medications to those in need

Report
from Salesian Missions
Published on 10 Jun 2019 View Original

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries provide a range of educational and social programs for poor youth and their families in San Benito Petén, Guatemala. They also provide a medical clinic that helps to care for residents of the villages in the region. The clinic, dedicated to Artemide Zatti, a Salesian of Don Bosco and a noted pharmacist who provided medical care to the poor, is often known locally as the “Zatti Clinic.”

In the Petén region there is only one hospital which, along with two local health centers, is meant to provide for a population of almost 1 million. Father Giampiero de Nardi, a Salesian missionary in the area, notes, “This situation makes people prefer to die at home rather than seek treatment at the hospital.”

Located in the Candelaria district, people from both the city and neighboring villages arrive at the Salesian medical clinic every day. The facility primarily serves individuals with limited economic means and offers medical advice, basic healthcare and low-cost medicines. The number of people coming to the clinic to be treated has risen over the last several months.

In a country where more than half the population lives on less than a dollar a day, health is not a recognized right. There are very few public facilities where people can be treated, and the first causes of death among children are intestinal and respiratory infections. A simple antibiotic, combined with adequate hygienic conditions, could save their lives.

Father De Nardi has launched a help desk for women who have been victims of domestic abuse and children who have been victims of sexual abuse. Both domestic and sexual abuse have high prevalence rates in the country.

Because of the scarce availability of drinking water and the precariousness of hygiene, diseases are widespread including tuberculosis, typhus, malaria, worms, diarrhea and skin diseases. Because women and children are the most vulnerable citizens, they are most commonly the ones to be afflicted with these diseases. Children are particularly vulnerable because the country has the highest rate of chronic infantile malnutrition in Latin America with 49.3 percent of children under the age of 5 suffering from a lack of food, according to the World Food Program.

Since medications are distributed for free to families in need, the Salesian medical clinic struggles to become economically independent. A tube of antiviral ointment, an anti-parasite pack and folic acid tablets – essential for preventing fetal malformations – are considered “luxuries” that too many people cannot afford in San Benito. Father De Nardi has recently asked for help from the Don Bosco Missions of Turin, Italy, so that the Salesian clinic can continue to guarantee medicines and treatments to all those in need.

Rural poverty hasn’t changed much in Guatemala during the last 20 years, according to the World Bank. Close to 75 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line and almost 58 percent lives below the extreme poverty line which the World Bank defines as struggling to afford even a basic basket of food. For the country’s indigenous population, the poverty rates jump even higher with almost 90 percent facing crippling poverty and few resources.

Salesian missionaries working and living in the country have been providing for the basic needs of Guatemala’s youth while helping to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. They work extensively with poor youth and their families at youth centers, orphanages, parishes and primary and secondary schools, as well as technical schools, vocational training workshops and two universities. Additional social and educational programs help provide for youth living on the streets and those living in poor indigenous communities.