Policy Brief: Roles for Religious Institutions in Facing Guatemala’s Healthcare Crisis

Author: Laura O'Brien

August 22, 2016

Following the 1996 Peace Accords aiming to end the devastating civil war, Guatemala and its partners promised to expand health coverage. Notably, they sought to address inequalities and serve rural and indigenous communities that bore the brunt of violence during the war. Guatemala’s national health indicators have improved since then, largely through partnerships with faith-inspired and non-governmental organizations. However, deep inequalities and institutionalized discrimination mean that accessible and affordable universal healthcare remains distant. Changes in government, healthcare funding challenges, and distrust between the government and communities have thwarted efforts. Political dynamics and corruption scandals have exacerbated ethnic and cultural divides. Religious approaches have special significance for health issues facing Guatemala, and religious institutions play vital, but often piecemeal, roles in healthcare. Religious health missions fill important gaps, but can undermine local capacity. This brief seeks to assess healthcare in Guatemala twenty years after the Peace Accords, while taking religious partnerships into account.

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