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Mapping Out a Healthier Future

Guatemala, May 5, 2005

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    Rosmina is Cucanha's health center coordinator and auxiliary nurse. She stands by a map that illustrates all of the households in the Cucanha area. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps Photo:

Rosmina is keeping tabs on the women of Cucanha, Guatemala. She knows who's pregnant, how far along they are and many other details about their lives. Are these things really her business?

Yes - exactly.

Rosmina is Cucanha's nurse and the coordinator of its local health center. Her job is to keep track of the area's pregnant women and new mothers, and offer them critical health services, education and advice.

Rosmina keeps a record of mothers and babies on a detailed map of Cucanha, which is located at the clinic. This resource, which includes six nearby villages, lets Rosmina keep track of where pregnant women are located, where vaccinations are needed and where there are sick children. The map is color-coordinated and constantly updated.

As the local representative of Mercy Corps' Health Citizenship Project in this cluster of villages, Rosmina has to be an expert in many fields: communication, cultural understanding and, of course, health. Her job also involves long hours and hard work. The clinic is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm six days a week, and Rosmina sees 40 to 50 patients each day.

News of the clinic's services, helpful advice and classes is spreading quickly throughout the area. Indigenous families that have never gone to a health clinic have started coming on a regular basis.

"The nearby villages have been very receptive and excited about Mercy Corps efforts," said Rosmina.

Providing critical care and education

Cucanha itself is fairly small - only 721 people - but the health center here also serves six other villages in the area. It also operates a satellite clinic in the nearby town of Raxquix.

Services offered at the Cucanha health clinic include vaccinations, pregnancy consultations, five-year health plans for children and family planning. Four health extension agents and three midwives work at the clinic.

Health education trainings conducted by the clinic are proving equally important to the overall health of area families. Classes conducted in the clinic's classroom include how to recognize pregnancy danger signs, proper care of infants and basic diagnosis of serious illnesses in children who are five years old and younger.

Berta and Carmelina, Mercy Corps' "cultural brokers" who are based at the hospital in Tucuru, often come to Cucanha to conduct childbirth classes.

The educational component of the Health Citizenship Project has been an enormous part of reducing maternal and infant mortality in the area by more than 60% over the past few years.

Rosmina and the rest of the staff at the Cucanha clinic intend to build on this success, expand their outreach and continue to improve the clinic itself.

A local health committee maintains the clinic and its grounds, and contributes to a small fund to purchase things like cleaning supplies and items for minor repairs. They are using their own resources to ensure the clinic continues its lifesaving mission to area families.

Mercy Corps is making sure they're supported in every way.

“Mercy Corps has helped us more than anything with forming village health committees, equipping this clinic and practicing good hygiene and health safety,” said Rosmina.

As Rosmina surveys the map with intent, analytical eyes, a pregnant woman walks into the clinic with another young child in tow. Rosmina turns around, and her demeanor instantly becomes caring and welcoming.

She knows this young mother - and knows what she must do to help her.