In the Highland region of Chiapas, roughly 80% of births
take place at home with the assistance of traditional midwives
Our Work in Mexico
GPA has been working in Chiapas, Mexico since 2004. We established an office in San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Central Highlands region, in order to reach remote indigenous communities in both Chiapas and Guatemala. Our projects have focused on training traditional midwives and health promoters throughout the state in an effort to improve the health of women and children in this highly-marginalized region.
With an estimated 122.3 million people, Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin America, and has the fifth largest per capita income in Latin America, according to the World Bank. Although Mexico's poverty rate fell slightly in 2012, the number of people living in poverty actually grew to include approximately 56 million people, nearly 46% of the population. Income is unevenly distributed, especially in the south where the four states with the highest rates of marginalization are located.
The southernmost state of Chiapas, where GPA’s base of operations in Mexico is located, is home to almost 4.8 million people, more than 33% of whom are indigenous Mayan. Though one of the richest states in natural resources, including petroleum and hydroelectric power, Chiapas, with a 74% poverty rate, is one of the poorest in terms of employment, education, and health. Malnutrition affects more than a quarter of the population, and in 2008, 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years was the result of diarrheal or respiratory diseases. Infant mortality in indigenous areas is more than double the national rate, and here 60% more women die from pregnancy-related causes than in the rest of the country.
Addressing health inequity was one of the main goals of the Zapatista (EZLN) movement in Chiapas. After an uprising in 1994, Zapatista rebels and the Mexican government signed a peace accord still in effect today. Many communities maintain allegiance to the Zapatista platform, which opposes privatization and advocates for indigenous rights to improve health care, control over use of natural resources, and education. They have declared autonomy from the state and have launched separate initiatives to address these problems.
In 2009, Chiapas amended its constitution to have the Millennium Development Goals written into it, probably the only state in the world to have a legal mandate to comply with these goals especially as they relate to the indigenous population. Nevertheless, little progress has been made in reducing the maternal mortality rate. The 2010 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) value for indigenous people in Chiapas was rated 0.61, compared to 0.76 for Mexico’s non-indigenous population. This is the most severe figure of any of Mexico’s 31 states.
Traditional midwives in Chiapas bringing lifesaving care to the remote communities they serve
GPA has trained more than 450 traditional midwives and health promoters throughout Chiapas’ indigenous populations on prenatal care, recognizing obstetric emergencies and collaborating with health agencies to provide rapid transportation from women’s homes to the hospital when urgent care is needed.
GPA helped midwives establish their own legally recognized civil association “Tzoblej Chihchil Nich Romero, A.C.” The association is self-governed by a board of indigenous midwives and is the first in the region to give community midwives a collective voice to increase their recognition within the health care system and gain better access to services for their clients.
A rain catchment system was installed at the community health clinic in El Zitín, Chiapas, benefitting 650 people.
Nearly 70 health promoters from highly marginalized communities have been trained on basic health care, nutrition and prenatal and postpartum care impacting approximately 12,000 individuals.