- About Us
- Our Work
- Work With MSF
- Public Events
- Press Room
MSF in Guatemala, 2009
Field Staff: 33
Reason for Intervention:
All articles on Guatemala »
According to the World Bank, about 51 per cent of Guatemalans live on less than $2 a day and 15 per cent on less than $1. Social development indicators such as infant mortality, chronic child malnutrition and illiteracy are among the worst in the hemisphere.
Violent crime, including murder, rape and armed assaults, presents further serious challenges with an average of 20 people being killed every day. In 2009 10,000 acts of rape were reported to the ministry of justice.
Such a climate left national authorities with few resources to devote to survivors of sexual violence. To address this, MSF set up a program providing urgently needed treatment in the capital Guatemala City in 2007. The center now provides medical and psychological assistance to 100 new patients every month. Through education and information initiatives, teams are also making the authorities, the medical community and the Guatemalan public aware that sexual violence is a medical emergency and that effective treatment is available.
MSF works in local clinics in the two most violent districts, supporting the main referral hospital in Guatemala City. Teams also run a mobile clinic. As a result of the local education campaigns as well as national lobbying, MSF’s services are now successfully integrated into the public health system. One of the future challenges is to persuade patients to come to the clinic as soon as possible after an attack. Many treatments, including anti-HIV medication, are effective only if administered within 72 hours of the assault. Although patients who were attacked by individuals unknown to them usually seek treatment early, victims of interfamilial sexual violence tend not to seek help until much later.
Maria was abducted by a criminal gang in Guatemala City, taken to a house and raped. Having managed to escape, she made her way to the MSF clinic and arrived distressed and badly shaken. ‘I was terrified, I didn’t want to live,’ she explained. ‘MSF gave me pills to protect me from HIV and injections to prevent other sexual diseases.’ Psychologists also helped Maria find coping mechanisms to deal with the mental trauma.
MSF has worked in Guatemala since 1984.