WINGS

WINGS creates opportunities for Guatemalan families to improve their lives through family planning education and access to reproductive health services.
Mar 16, 2016

How Family Planning Can Break the Cycle of Poverty

A young mother during a WINGS family planning talk
A young mother during a WINGS family planning talk

Guatemala is often known for its beautiful landscapes, travel spots, and rich Mayan history. However, Guatemala is also known for its struggles as a developing country, especially for its extremely high poverty rates. Seventy five percent of the indigenous population in Guatemala lives in poverty. Those who live in extreme poverty in this country live on $2 a day. Along with poverty, malnutrition is widespread. One in every two children under 5 years old is chronically malnourished. This makes Guatemala the country with the highest malnutrition rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, and fourth highest in the world.  Chronic malnutrition occurs over time and affects children cognitively, socially, and physically. Chronically malnourished children are very short for their age and their learning capabilities are lower than those of a healthy child. The first 1000 days of a child’s life are crucial in establishing good nutrition because after that, the effects of chronic malnutrition are irreversible.

But what do poverty and malnutrition have to do with family planning? Well, if a family has access to reproductive health services, they will get to choose how many children they have. They will most likely have fewer children than families who do not have access to family planning services. A family with fewer children will be more likely to meet the needs of each child financially. On the other hand, parents who have 11 children, for example, will find it far more challenging to properly feed them all. Many large families in this country do not have enough resources to pay for food, hence their children quickly become malnourished, and so the cycle goes on. To make matters worse, in Guatemala there is nearly a 30% unmet need for family planning. For indigenous women, it is even more challenging; 1 in 3 indigenous women have no access to health and family planning services. The average Guatemalan woman’s ideal number of children is 2, but they have 3.8 on average and 4.6 in indigenous communities. This makes Guatemala the country with the highest fertility rate in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Ana is from San Pablo la Laguna. At 46 years of age, she has been pregnant eight times and currently has five children. Ana is chronically malnourished and weighs less than 100 pounds; her body is not fit for pregnancy, resulting in three pregnancies ending in miscarriage.  Ana came to a WINGS clinic held at a partnering hospital in Santiago, extremely pale and clearly anemic. She had never used a contraceptive method before, simply because she could not afford one. Ana came to the hospital in hopes of getting a tubal ligation, even though she had no way of paying for it. Unquestionably, our staff was prepared to waive the operation costs so that Ana could receive the method of her choice. Because her health was quite unstable, it was a very delicate procedure, but Ana’s operation was successful. Even though our medical staff recommended that she stay in the hospital that night, Ana had no one to look after her children, so she went back to her village. WINGS’ staff is still in regular contact with Ana, to make sure that her health is better than the first time we saw her. Ana is now able to focus more on her own health and the health of her family, without being concerned about future unintended pregnancies.

Family planning positively impacts Guatemalans by enabling them to take ownership of their reproductive lives, providing them a path out of the cycle of poverty and malnutrition. Just in 2015, we provided reproductive health education, contraceptive methods, and family planning services to more than 21,310 people in Guatemala. Through WINGS stationary and partner clinics, we performed six times the number of tubal ligations and vasectomies projected for 2015. In the first three months of 2016, we have already provided family planning services to 3221people in Guatemala.  

It is through the support of donors like yourself that we can provide family planning services in Guatemala, to break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition. Thank you so much for your continued support and for standing with WINGS in bringing reproductive health services to the most vulnerable in Guatemala. 

Discussing the importance of family planning
Discussing the importance of family planning
Providing contraceptive methods in rural Guatemala
Providing contraceptive methods in rural Guatemala
Mar 15, 2016

Fighting Cervical Cancer in Guatemala

Educational talk before cervical cancer screening
Educational talk before cervical cancer screening

If caught early, cervical cancer is highly treatable. However, it is the number one cause of cancer-related death among Guatemalan women.

There are many reasons why fighting cervical cancer is so difficult in Guatemala. For one, there is an obvious lack of access to health centers, especially in rural areas, where people are predominantly poorer than in the rest of Guatemala. In fact, more than half of Guatemala’s population lives in rural areas, and the rural poor account for more than 70% of the country’s poor population. Additionally, transportation to a place where women could potentially get a cervical cancer screening is also very unlikely. Not only do rural areas lack proper roads, but there are many villages where public transportation simply does not exist.

Education is also lacking; especially in rural areas. Indigenous girls attend school, on average, for only three years of their lives. Even for those who do attend school; it is most likely that they will not receive education about reproductive health in general, let alone information about cervical cancer. With Guatemala being such a conservative country, reproductive health education and family planning have never been a priority. This results in many women not knowing about the risk factors for cervical cancer, or the importance of getting screened. To make matters worse, those who do need treatment for cervical cancer can rarely afford it. The poorest people in Guatemala live on approximately $2 per day, which simply does not permit paying for treatment, when there is a family to feed and other basic needs to meet.

Take Gabina Sajbin. She is 25 years old and she has three children. She’s from Ximaxox, a very remote village in Quiché. Gabina wanted to get a contraceptive method and a cervical cancer screening, but she thought she did not have enough money to afford both, so she chose to get a contraceptive method first. Gabina had been in constant pain and discomfort for the past few years. She got a pap smear two years ago, but never received the results. Her mother, the local midwife in their town wanted to help Gabina, but there was no medical facility within reach. Thankfully, WINGS held a mobile clinic in Gabina’s town, and once we found out about her financial concerns, we covered the costs of her services.

Gabina’s cervical cancer screening came out positive, but WINGS’ mobile clinics are prepared to provide immediate treatment of pre-cancerous cells using cryotherapy, so Gabina received treatment on the spot. We noticed that it was challenging for Gabina to understand certain words because Spanish is not her first language, but thankfully one of our staff members speaks Gabina’s native tongue, Quiche. This gave Gabina the opportunity to fully understand the importance of screening, the disease progression, and the treatment. To this day, we are still in contact with Gabina, making sure that she gets the attention and treatment she needs.

There are so many women in need of screening and treatment in Guatemala, but lack of resources and other challenging life circumstances create significant barriers to access. WINGS breaks down these barriers in many ways. We provide talks and training that explain the risk factors of cervical cancer, the disease progression, treatment, and the importance of screening. We also reduce our patients’ financial burden by providing low-cost, high quality services made possible through generous donations to WINGS. Last but not least, our mobile clinics are key; if a patient cannot come to us, we will go to them. Through our mobile clinics, we are able to reach people in the most remote, rural areas of the country, in the hope that more Guatemalans can get the medical attention and services they need. In 2015, WINGS surpassed its cervical cancer screening projection by 141%, screening 3,062 women. And just in the first three months of 2016, we have already done 496 cervical cancer screenings.

 Thank you for standing with WINGS and bringing vital cervical cancer education and screening to vulnerable women in Guatemala.

WINGS doing outreach in rural Guatemala
WINGS doing outreach in rural Guatemala
WINGS nurse and a patient during our mobile clinic
WINGS nurse and a patient during our mobile clinic
Dec 21, 2015

Why Prevention Must Go Beyond Available Services

Raising awareness for women
Raising awareness for women's group

2016 marks the 10 year anniversay of WINGS' development and implementation of a cervical cancer program using the screen and treat visual inspection with acetic acid and cryotherapy method (VIA-cryo). Prior to 2006, WINGS provided nearly 5,000 referrals a year to a national partner organization for pap smears. As high as the need was and remains for these services, what we realized early on is that in a low-resource setting like Guatemala, the traditional pap smear was not the best or most practical option for women from rural, indigenous, and low-income villages. Why not? Because first and foremost, there were and still are so few adequate facilities and competently trained lab technicians to read pap results. Second, unlike in the United States, there is quite a bit of lag time in preparing the results to share with each woman. And finally, because the results are ready up to a month after the initial pap, it was often difficult to communicate with each woman in question to provide her with a positive or negative result: many did not have cell phones, clear addresses, or even live near the facility in which they underwent the pap smear. 

VIA-cryo is a wonderful alternative because it can be performed outside of a clinical facility, including in many of the remote jungle and mountain settings we work in, and provides immediate results. Same-day treatment is provided for pre-cancerous lesions while more advanced cases, including women suspected to have cancer, are referred to a partner gynecologist for further examination (biopsies, colposcopies) and treatment. Moreover, international guidelines recommend that women who have a normal result do not need to return for an examination for 3 years. 

We provide VIA-cryo through two service components: daily mobile clinics in communities and stationary clinics in peri-urban areas. The ease and availability of this service means nearly 4,000 women visit our clinics on an annual basis for cervical cancer screenings. As pleased as we are to see women arriving daily at our clinics for screening, we know one major issue remains in our path to making preventative cervical cancer screenings a norm in Guatemala: a fatalistic view of cancer, and cervical cancer specifically, among many Guatemalan women. Fatalism tends to be more damaging after a woman has undergone screening and does in fact have a positive result or suspected case of cancer. In many communities, people believe that they do not have control over their future - that cancer is part of their destiny. Take 28 year old Carmena who we met in our mobile clinic in Zacualpa, Quiché. The mother of one had been struggling to conceive as she and her partner are ready for their second child, so she thought it best to undergo a screening and see if our team could detect anything. Unfortunately, we did.  

The young mother has what our team refers to as a "suspected case of cancer" and was given emotional counselling by our team and immediately referred to a more advanced medical facility in her area so that the appropriate course of treatment could be determined. Carmena has been hesistant to actually visit the medical facility because she thinks it's her fate. This is an indication for our team that so much more needs to be done in addition to making services accessible: Guatemalan women need to know and understand that they can have a say in their health, their lives, and their futures, and in this case, following through with a screening or treatment is the first hurdle. 

Both our medical team and our Reproductive Health Educators are working with Carmena to help her move beyond the idea that cancer is her fate so that she can go forward with a treatment plan and be there with her daughter. Learning from Carmena and other similar cases, our team is all the more dedicated to ensuring that women in Guatemala understand they have a right to health which does not stop at a positive diagnosis. 

Thank you for standing with WINGS and bringing vital cervical cancer education and screening to vulnerable women in Guatemala. 

Healthy mothers, healthy children
Healthy mothers, healthy children
Educational talk about cervical cancer
Educational talk about cervical cancer
 
   

donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $25
    give
  • $50
    give
  • $85
    give
  • $150
    give
  • $250
    give
  • $500
    give
  • $25
    each month
    give
  • $50
    each month
    give
  • $85
    each month
    give
  • $150
    each month
    give
  • $250
    each month
    give
  • $500
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of WINGS

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about WINGS on GreatNonProfits.org.
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.