Guatemala (MNN) — According to recent reports, 50 percent of the children in Guatemala suffer from malnutrition. And the global economic downturn has made the situation worse. Some families claim they're receiving less money from relatives in the United States, while others simply can't make enough to feed their families, let alone medical care.
This week, Orphan Outreach and a team from Mission Network News and 91.3 WCSG in Grand Rapids, Michigan are tackling at least one of the problems — medical care.
Orphan Outreach is partnering with the Good Shepherd Church in Santiago, Guatemala. Pastor Diego Tzina says the economic downturn is a major factor in their area. "Many of the families don't have steady work. Businesses have had to lay people off from their jobs."
While it's not that bad in nearby Panabaj, the Guatemala Country Director for Orphan Outreach, Gloria Caceres, says, "The families here have about $4 income per week. When you have more than four or five children–which is very common in these families–even if you have a little crop, it's not enough to feed your family."
Subsistence farming isn't enough, and malnutrition is common throughout the region. Tzina says one area has been hit especially hard. "Crro de Oro is a community where many people are giving away their children because they cannot feed them."
Malnutrition also leads to sickness. That's why the MNN/WCSG medical team is there helping this week. "People can't afford to go to a private clinic. And unfortunately, the public clinic here doesn't have any supplies and will charge for the meds that they provide to patients. Many people don't feel comfortable going there because they know they don't have enough money to pay for their visit."
An average of 250 people were treated at the Orphan Outreach/MNN clinic this week.
According to Caceres, this clinic brought hope back into the lives of many. "They probably didn't feel like they had any faith or hope. Today, when the doctors were examining them, they were able to see that there is a God who loves them and cares for them. And, we've invited all of them to go to church and to get closer to God and have a personal relationship with Him."
One of the team members. Bev Bowman. says she never dreamed that she would be able to use her skills as a physician assistant to lead people to Christ. "It's a dream come true," she says. "I always hoped I could."
Funding is needed for the Good Shepherd School, which sponsors many of these children with not only a good education, but also with food and other supplies.