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GUATEMALA: Salesian medical clinic makes improvements to meet community demand for medical care

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries provide a range of educational and social programs for poor youth and their families in San Benito Petén, Guatemala. Salesian missionaries in the region provide a medical clinic that helps to care for people from the local villages. The clinic, dedicated to Artemide Zatti, a Salesian of Don Bosco and a noted pharmacist who provided medical care to the poor, is often known locally as the “Zatti Clinic.”

In the Petén region there is only one hospital which, along with two local health centers, is meant to provide for the health of a population of almost 1 million inhabitants. Father Giampiero de Nardi, a Salesian missionary in the region, notes, “This situation makes people prefer to die at home rather than seek treatment at the hospital.”

To make matters worse, there is little preparation for doctors and sometimes a lack of willingness to help. “The last case was a lady who came to our clinic to treat a leg infection caused by an accident,” explains Fr. de Nardi. “The woman suffered from diabetes, so the leg was seriously infected. The hospital doctor told her he would have to amputate her leg. The woman came to us, she was medicated every day and now she walks perfectly.”

Located in the Candelaria district, people from both the city and neighboring villages arrive at the health clinic every day. The facility works primarily with individuals from limited economic means and offers medical advice, basic healthcare and low-cost medicines. The number of people coming to the clinic to be treated has risen over the last several months.

“On the one hand it makes me happy, but on the other it makes me angry,” adds Fr. de Nardi. “It is not possible that our battered clinic can compete with a structure as big as that of the hospital.”

In a country where more than half the population lives on less than a dollar a day, health is not a recognized right. There are very few public facilities where they can be treated and the first causes of death among children are intestinal and respiratory infections. A simple antibiotic, combined with adequate hygienic conditions, could save their lives.

Given the Salesian commitment to the health of the local people, several schools in the city are contacting the Salesian clinic to give training courses to children and parents on the topic. Work to expand and improve the Salesian medical clinic also continues.

“Thanks to the help of Missioni Don Bosco and a benefactor, we have equipped ourselves with a new dental chair and instruments for electrocardiograms, mouth radiographs and urinalysis. In addition, a new room has been created to perform the clinical examinations and to place the new dental chair,” says Fr. de Nardi.

Rural poverty hasn’t changed much in Guatemala during the last 20 years, according to the World Bank. Close to 75 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line and almost 58 percent lives below the extreme poverty line, which the World Bank defines as struggling to afford even a basic basket of food. For the country’s indigenous population, the poverty rates jump even higher with almost 90 percent facing crippling poverty and few resources.

Salesian missionaries working and living in the country have been providing for the basic needs of Guatemala’s youth while helping to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. They work extensively with poor youth and their families at youth centers, orphanages, parishes and primary and secondary schools, as well as technical schools, vocational training workshops and two universities. Additional social and educational programs help provide for youth living on the streets and those living in poor indigenous communities.



ANS – Guatemala – “Zatti Clinic”: a service close to the people

World Bank – Guatemala

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