Supporting Indigenous Populations Affected by Guatemala Earthquake



An air shipment of specifically requested medical supplies is scheduled to leave Direct Relief’s warehouse today, headed for a partner organization in Guatemala treating people in and around the area affected by the 7.4-magnitude earthquake that hit earlier this month.

The partner organization, Caritas de Guatemala, provides health care and other services for many of the local indigenous Mayan population, a group that consists primarily of subsistence farmers, who are particularly vulnerable  to extreme weather conditions and natural disasters.

Indigenous Guatemalans suffer from malnourishment, poverty, and unequal access to basic services, including health care.  The UN reports that the life expectancy gap for indigenous populations is 13 years lower than the national average.

Direct Relief knows that these realities intensify during emergencies and that it’s critical to support partners who provide care to these vulnerable populations.

The urgent shipment includes first aid supplies, antibiotics, sutures, syringes, needles, minor surgical instruments,  respiratory supplies, and nutritionals.

Medical supplies contained in Direct Relief’s Hurricane Preparedness Modules were also pre-positioned in Guatemala at the start of hurricane season, and were made available for response immediately following this emergency.

Following a wave of aftershocks, more than 40 people have been reported dead, with dozens more missing, in the eastern departments of San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, and Solola, Guatemala.

Photo courtesy of Caritas de Guatemala

Several days after the disaster, Caritas de Gautemala sent this report on the housing crisis:

“A total of 2,263 homes have damage ranging from mild to severe, where the majority of the population of the affected departments is indigenous and lives in deficient conditions where poverty is stark. Most homes are built from adobe and have clay and tile roofs and with the intensity of the earthquake, it is possible that a number of families having to leave their homes, because many homes are now uninhabitable.

Surely aid will be immediately required for the reconstruction of housing for families, who do not have the capacity and financial solvency for this type of response. The road infrastructure is in poor condition, in some places the road was cracked; reported vehicle damaged 3 bridges and a number of buildings with serious damage, among these schools.”

Since this report, the number of homes destroyed has been increased to more than 5,000.  Severe disruptions in road infrastructure, electricity, and clean water access have also been reported in the affected departments.

Direct Relief is preparing additional shipments of medicines and medical supplies to be sent to Guatemala in the following weeks to support the ongoing need there as the situation continues to develop.

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