The community currently served by MMI's projects is the predominantly Maya community in the Mam-speaking area of the western highlands of Guatemala, a population of approximately 50,000.
This area suffered significantly during the 36-year Guatemalan civil war, which ended in 1996. The area continues to experience the social, economic, and psychological effects of the war.
Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere with the fourth highest rate of chronic childhood malnutrition in the world. 50% of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition nationwide; in parts of the western highlands this percentage can reach 80-90%.
- Maternal and infant mortality rates are still among the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
- 44% of Mayan women are illiterate, and only 1 percent have attended secondary school.
- The average number of years in school in the indigenous population is 2.1 years. The primary income in the region is derived from weaving and agriculture. Maya family income in the area is about $3 per day.
While some health care is available through the Ministry of Health and the local health centers, it has often not been offered in linguistically and culturally appropriate ways. There has been no attempt to integrate the highly developed traditional healing practices and herbal medicine into the care provided. Though laws exist to address racism and women’s rights, these are not appropriately implemented – especially in rural communities – and there are significant problems with child and spousal abuse, and mistreatment of women and indigenous individuals in health care. The communities served by MMI are struggling to move forward, improve health, nutrition, education and poverty, while simultaneously working to preserve the rich traditions and customs which have sustained them in so many difficulties.