August 17, 2001
On August 13, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began a short-term project to bring medical aid and shelter to people fleeing violence in Guatemala's Quiché region.
Approximately 35 Quiché Chiule families, reportedly forcibly expelled from their homes in the village of Los Cimientos by a rival group, have taken refuge Xeputul II. >
Quiché, one of the poorest areas in Guatemala, was the scene of some of the cruelest fighting and atrocities during the country's 36-year civil war. Lands abandoned during the war continue to cause disputes, often between different ethnic and cultural groups, and the country is immersed in low-intensity violence, which has had traumatic consequences for the civilian population.
The health situation for the families in Xeputul II was precarious before the arrival of the displaced group. The climate in this mountainous area is cold and rainy with sharp drops in temperature at night. The nearest health facility is three hours by car and the village claimed only 23 latrines for 28 families.
The recent arrivals face new health risks. They are currently sleeping outside under plastic sheeting provided by CONRED, the national office of disaster relief. Local health officials acknowledge they do not have the capacity to provide adequate health services for the village. Reported pathologies among the displaced include diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, skin diseases, conjunctivitis, chronic malnutrition and acute anemia.
"The precarious settlement conditions of displaced families, the living conditions of resident families and the overcrowding complicate the population's health conditions as well as the proper management of sanitation services," explains Enric Grau, MSF's general coordinator in Guatemala.
MSF is organizing the one-month intervention in coordination with local officials and the community's health workers. Activities will be centered on supporting the area's health facilities, donating medicines, and building six temporary shelters and 15 latrines, as well as monitoring the quality of the water used by the population.
MSF has been working in Guatemala since 1986. MSF teams in the country focus on treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, running primary health care programs and providing medical and psychological care for street children.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)