Marta Laj Calel, with her proof of vaccination
The cooperation between Mayan midwives and health centers helps to improve health in remote areas, according to Dr. Dilys Walker, Professor, Reproductive Services, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
“In the past several years, there has been a big push to integrate comadronas into the Guatemalan health system to help in the delivery of babies in facilities,” she said.
This is a far cry from previous years. Dr. Walker recalled of her time as an obstetrician, when she trained comadronas in simulations for acute childbirth emergencies. “Back then -when they traveled to health clinics- it was more likely to see comadronas cleaning up after a birth, rather than assisting with one,” she added.
There are over 23,000 comadronas registered with the Guatemalan Ministry of Public Health, according to Nim Alaxik, a national non-governmental organization dedicated to oversee their wellbeing.
The indigenous midwives now receive an official identity card linking them to the Ministry and are eligible for regular training. But they are not part of the Ministry payroll, and finding ways to support their work is still a challenge, said Dr. Jose Milton Guzman, a medical doctor and anthropologist at the PAHO office in Guatemala.
In El Rancho, during the worst days of the pandemic, PAHO, with the support of the European Union, provided comadronas with kits that included masks, sanitizers as well as flashlights and raincoats to help them continue their work under all circumstances.