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MSF in Guatemala, 2008
Field Staff: 21
Reason for Intervention:
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Civil war, poverty, street gangs, the spread of Mexican drug cartels, and the failing judicial system have contributed to a soaring crime rate and ever-increasing violence. On average, more than 17 people were killed every day in 2008, the highest rate of homicides in Guatemala since the end of the civil war.
This situation increases social inequality, unfair distribution of wealth, and the disintegration of the family, and there has been an enormous incidence of sexual violence. More than 10,000 cases were officially reported in Guatemala last year.
The violence is concentrated in the capital city and is most prevalent in suburban zones 7 and 18 on the outskirts of Guatemala City. MSF opened programs in these two zones in 2007. Teams offer medical and psychological support, provide medication, and coach staff from the national Ministry of Health. In 2008 MSF teams gave comprehensive medical and psychological assistance to more than 400 victims. The medical response includes presumptive treatment or prophylaxis, administered to prevent the development of any sexually transmitted infections. Last year the program was extended to provide further points of access for patients. MSF has installed an open-all-hours service within the Ministerio Publico, Guatemala's office for crime reporting. Women who report a sexual assault are able to receive free medical and mental health care in the Ministerio Publico.
MSF has established a mobile clinic and plans to set up another open-all-hours medical and mental health service in Guatemala City’s general hospital, which acts as a central point for referrals from other health facilities.
To further raise awareness, the teams have conducted extensive information campaigns in the communities, but more efforts are required to improve the knowledge of health professionals, authorities, and the broader community.
MSF has worked in Guatemala since 1984.