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Healthcare in Guatemala

In Guatemala, healthcare conditions in rural areas contrast sharply to those in large cities. While large cities boast of state-of-the-art facilities for healthcare, rural areas often have health services which are noticeably overwhelmed. Competent and reputable doctors, dentists, ophthalmologists and veterinarians are available in Guatemala City. Most have studied or been trained in the US or Europe and speak English. Specialisation is common in most major fields and one or more physicians are available in each.

Guatemala's healthcare system consists of three sectors: public, private non-profit, and private for-profit. Health coverage has been estimated to be low, with more than 40% of the population receiving no access to healthcare services. As of 1999, there were an estimated 0.9 physicians and 1 hospital bed per 1,000 people. As of 1999, 4.3% of GDP went to health expenditures.

The major hospitals, clinics and diagnostic laboratories used by foreigners are adequately equipped. The local supply of medicines, which can usually be bought without prescription, is adequate although expensive and some may be difficult to obtain. If you take prescription drugs, bring a supply with you and arrange to have them sent to you as needed. If special medication is needed, bring a supply and a copy of the prescription to post.

In 2000, 92% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 85% had adequate sanitation. Malaria rates are high. In 1995, there were 23,608 new cases. Cholera was reported in 7,970 people in 1995. In 1999 there were 85 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 inhabitants. Guatemala does attempt to vaccinate its children and figures from 1997 are as follows: tuberculosis, 88%; diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, 83%; polio, 83%; and measles, 74%. All routine vaccinations are paid for by the government.

It is estimated that the poorest half of the population gets only 60% of the minimum daily caloric requirement. Some steps have been taken to fortify foods with daily vitamin requirements. Currently, sugar is being fortified with vitamin A and wheat flour will be fortified with iron. Data collected from 1990 to 1998 indicates that 32% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception.





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