maya1
25 Jul
  • By Maya Medical Project

Mayan communities of indigenous people in Guatemala.

There are an estimated 300 million indigenous peoples living in more than 90 countries worldwide who represent a rich diversity of cultures, religions, traditions, languages and histories. Yet indigenous peoples continue to be the most marginalized population group and greatest minority worldwide. Already underserved, the Mayan population is denied support from their national government and the natural resources residing on their traditional land is a target for state revenue. Furthermore, children born into indigenous families often live in remote areas where the government does not invest in basic social services. As a result, indigenous population have limited to no access to health care or quality education.

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(Malnourished Mayan Children in Guatemala)

Globally, indigenous peoples suffer from poorer health, are more likely to experience disability and reduced quality of life, and ultimately die younger than their non-indigenous counterparts. Data indicates that circumstances of extreme poverty are significantly more prevalent among indigenous peoples than non-indigenous groups, and are rooted in other factors such as lack of access to education and social services, forced displacement, armed conflict, and the loss and degradation of their customary lands and resources. These forces are compounded by structural racism and discrimination, which makes women and children particularly vulnerable to poor health. Because of these issues, indigenous peoples experience higher levels of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, cardiovascular illness, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.

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(Small clinic serving Mayan population, nearest hospital is 8 hours away by truck) 

Accessibility is a key component of the right to health and is a barrier to proper health services. In Guatemala, there are significant direct and indirect costs for health services that prevent or postpone low-income families from seeking health care (i.e. transportation, food, accommodation, family care, medication or loss of work days). These costs can lead to significant financial hardship. The health services that do exist in the indigenous communities are likely lower quality and not always culturally appropriate. There is therefore an urgent need to develop comprehensive and relevant health strategies for these indigenous populations.

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(Local children awaiting eye screening examination during a mission trip) 

Mayan languages are spoken by over 6 million people across Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras, as well as in various communities in the United States and Canada. The Maya area is divided into two geographical regions, the Highland and the Lowland areas, with the boundary falling roughly along the chain of mountains that runs through central Guatemala. Guatemala has the highest density of Mayan speakers of any other country today. Official census estimates suggest about 40% of Guatemalans spea3k Mayan languages natively, which is likely a large underestimation. Literacy rates in Mayan territories are generally quire low, though literacy has improved with increased availability of Mayan language education. With poor access to education, poor family incomes, and lack of resources, there is a significant need for scholarship assistance in these areas.

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(Children at their local school, many have to travel up to 60 miles one way) 

In August of 2015, Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim founded the Maya Medical Project to address the crisis of poverty and inadequate health care needs of the Mayan communities living in Guatemala. Maya Medical Project specifically stands to raise awareness on the crisis of poverty, historical injustice, inadequate health care, and lack of access to formal education for the indigenous Mayan population living in Northern Guatemala. This inadequacy in access of basic needs is based on colonial era dehumanization of indigenous peoples in the Western hemisphere and is an important global issue to be addressed.

Maya Medical Project is the first long-term partnership developed with the Ancestral Q’anjob’al Mayan Government that is dedicated to helping them empower and develop their own communities. We provide the long-term resources for medical aid and health care access through the Medical Relief Program, as well as scholarships and school funding through the Scholarship Program.

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Maya Medical Project is a health initiative of Communidad Maya Pixan Ixim, a non-profit organization of the Maya Nation dedicated to the culture enrichment of both the Maya and the wider Omaha Communities. Maya Medical Project aims to provide aid and medical support to the indigenous Mayan population of Guatemala, in order to impact health, deliver quality care, and improve lives. Our vision is to end all healthcare and educational disparities among indigenous Mayan communities who have suffered years of oppression and poverty, with a focus on community development and support.