We had another amazing time in Guatemala training further comadronas, (a.k.a. traditional birth attendants). We spent 2 weeks in a small town called San Miguel Ixtahuacán in the Department of San Marcos. This town serves approx. 48,000 people in total including those from the surrounding hamlets and villages. It is situated in the western portion of Guatemala in the highlands, near the Mexican border and has a fairly new Health Center with 24 hour emergency service.
Unfortunately it is rather poorly equipped. Although it has some donated equipment, they lack enough trained personnel as well as the funding required, for sufficient electricity to run much of the equipment. Dr. Cass, who is the director of the Health Center, requested our course last year when we were in San Pedro. His intention is to have all the Comadronas in the area trained and registered. Last year there were 5 maternal deaths in this area, primarily due to hemorrhage, accenting the importance of further training. Our course gives the women the knowledge and skills to assess pregnant women during their pregnancy to help prevent complications from arising as well as skills needed should an emergency arise during the birth.
We trained 59 eager students, the majority being comadronas who have been actively working, and the remainder, aspiring comadronas, as well as 1 third year nursing student. Once again, it was remarkable to see the students so intrigued by what they were learning. Their desire to learn was palpable! The course was very well received and during our final talking circles (at the end of each week-long course) we heard from many, how valuable the training was that they had received, how they found the “hands-on” format to be very useful, and how they felt that they would remember what they were taught. We had a wonderful graduation ceremony to celebrate the students completing the course and each student received their diploma and manual, as well as a kit of supplies to help them during their next number of births.
Our team has already been asked to bring our course to another remote area, in an area NE of Guatemala City. We hope to be back in Guatemala for training in this area next year. In the meantime our Guatemalan teammates will be back in the San Miguel area 2-3 more times in the coming year to provide the further training to the remaining Comadronas there.
The Minister of Health has given us their complete approval and hope that we will be able to reach many other remote areas of Guatemala in the coming years. This will include the concept of having a registry of trained comadronas at a national level, and to train all comadronas within Guatemala with our comprehensive hands-on course. This is very good news indeed!
As you can see, things continue to unfold, and many more areas of Guatemala are still in need of training.