About Guatemala

Located in the heart of Central America, Guatemala is home to an estimated 14 million people, half of which are children. Once home to the advanced Mayan civilizations, more than 21 different Mayan languages are still spoken today in addition to the primary language of Spanish. Coffee and chocolate are the largest exports with almost 50% of Guatemalans working in the agricultural industry. Tourism is the second-largest industry, employing another 35% of the population. Despite this, Guatemala is the poorest country in Latin America with more than half of the population living on less than $1.25 US per day.

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The Need

As primary health care for children in the country continues to improve, more children are surviving infancy and early childhood with debilitating congenital or acquired conditions requiring advanced pediatric specialty care. For example, Guatemala has among the highest rates of neural tube defects (NTD) in the world. NTD’s are birth defects of the brain or spinal cord, most known by conditions such as spina bifida or nasal encephalocele .  As a result of this high incidence, the need for neurosurgery and craniofacial surgery in Guatemala is significant and is among WPP’s highest priorities to assist in the country.

WPP's Impact In Guatemala

For 2002-2018

54 Children Have Traveled to the United States for Care

Surgical services have included Neurosurgery, Craniofacial, Orthopedic, Plastic Surgery and more

43 Surgical and Diagnostic Teams have Visited Guatemala

Three WPP volunteer medical teams are scheduled to travel to Guatemala this year, reaching more than 100 children in need of care.

1,325 Total Children Have Been Reached by WPP Medical Teams

Mobilization of Surgical, Diagnostic & Medical Specialty Teams:

WPP teams currently scheduled to travel to Guatemala include:
  • Neurosurgery
  • Craniofacial Surgery
  • Ophthalmology
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Patient Referral Program:

For patients requiring more complex or urgent surgical care, WPP coordinates treatment through a network of United States and international partner hospitals. Approximately 10-15 children from Guatemala receive services through this program each year.

Children of the Guatemala: Erickson, age 13, Orthopedic (Upper Extremity and Scoliosis)
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Erickson was born in a very rural village of Guatemala with severe scoliosis and two partial arms in the left side of his body. In a groundbreaking, unprecedented surgery, Dr. Goldfarb of Shriners Hospital St. Louis fused his two left arms into one functional arm. For 9 years, Erickson travelled to the U.S. twice a year for continued scoliosis treatment making space for his growing lungs to develop. Erickson underwent his final surgery in Spring 2017, permanently correcting his scoliosis. He returned to Guatemala fully bilingual and ready to excel in school.

Partnerships in Guatemala

The effectiveness of WPP program implementation and outcomes is strengthened through partnerships both within the country and with other organizations elsewhere committed to the goal of improving access to pediatric specialist care for Guatemalan children.

Program Partners 
  • Ministry of Health of Guatemala
  • FUNDEGUA \ Manos a la Salud
  • The Shalom Foundation \ The Moore Pediatric Surgery Center
  • TecniScan
  • United States Embassy