Emergency health care: Guatemala

Emergency Health Care programme: Disability and extreme poverty (Guatemala)

in partnership with The Critical Institute

The project builds up on years of research and programme involvement in the field of disability and chronic poverty in Guatemala, backed by grounded, bottom-up participatory approaches. It responds to one of the most critical needs and problems- the lack or absence of access to adequate health care by the poorest disabled people. The project provides much needed assistance to disabled people with accessing emergency health care, in particular to those residing in the poorest rural areas and indigenous populations living in the most distant remote mountains. It prioritises those living in the most impoverished conditions.

Working collaboratively throughout all stages with local level Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and other trusted partners (see details in section below), the project contributes to alleviating the barriers in particular the costs that traditionally bar access to emergency health care:

  • transportation and associated costs; consultation fees and costs of emergency intervention e.g. operations;
  • the costs of medication (especially for those with chronic conditions)
  • social, cultural and political barriers to quality health care e.g. linguistic and cultural mediation and translation for indigenous participants.

We also provide critical support through capacity building to partner organisations with lobbying key stakeholders e.g. health care centers, hospitals and municipal authorities in an effort to facilitate immediate access as well as strengthening future opportunities for quality health care for disabled people.

The project started in 2012 and is currently funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Malta. This project responds to and is based on years of research and practice in the field. We are very familiar with the territory, with the cultures and with the people, and over the years have built not only a solid platform of knowledge and location expertise, but a network of support that is instrumental to the success of this project.

As the project progresses, we continue to connect with and visit more people, and the sheer numbers we are looking to assist becomes progressively longer. One of the outcomes of the project is that it becomes costlier as we reach more people and continue to do our best to provide quality and dignified health care over time. We want to ensure that support to the people who need it is not one-off and uncoordinated, but consistent, the best that can be provided, followed up by our partners and fed back into the programme.
As the programme shapes up, and as we plan the logistics of intervention, we meet many cases which need support.

Our approach

Our work is not only participatory, but locally-owned and operationalised. Our partners are largely organisations of disabled people (DPOs), who are responsible for drafting up lists of potential participants in the project, organising the visits, planning (together with Integra) the medical visits, monitoring developments, reporting back and fine tuning the project.
We genuinely believe that disabled people are responsible for their own development, and we only act as intermediaries to support their voices, demands and efforts on their own terms and conditions. Many of the DPOs we work with are small, operate in impoverished areas, and run by people who have or are still experiencing chronic poverty.
We remain perpetual outsiders, but we pride ourselves that our work is informed, culturally and contextually sensitive and above all responsive. We also work with everyone, irrespective of creed, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and locality and struggle hard to respect value systems and ways different to our own. Above all, we do not impose our own beliefs and ways of doing things, listen and talk to people, and above all respect their choices.

Our commitment

Our work is not an act of charity, but a small attempt at helping empower those at the margins to live with less suffering, with dignity. We want to help people live without pain, eat regularly, and in turn to help their own loved ones in the way they want. Our return is in facilitating a network of people helping people, in people being human. We get to share our lives and time with some inspiring individuals, who live and shine despite all odds. We
have much to learn from this experience, and want to put this to further good use in future projects.

Project set up and run by Dr Shaun Grech (The Critical Institute)

For more information see interview with Shaun Grech on our media page