The Mortality Rate in Guatemala

The Mortality Rate in Guatemala


Mortality rate refers to the measure of the certain number of deaths in a given population within a certain period. Time is the major factor for the rate to be determined. Guatemala is a country located in Central America, bordering Mexico, Belize, and El Salvador with a population of about 14.7 million. It comprises of the Mayan descendants who stay majorly in the rural residents, although the urban settlement is also increasing.

The country was colonized by Spain. The Guatemala health care system consists of both private and public sectors. The private sector is more geared towards profit-making, unlike the public sector that consists of nonprofit-making motives. Some private sectors, however, are not profit geared. More than 40% of Guatemalan residents lack access to health care facilities. This highlights the reason for the high mortality rate in the country.

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The mortality rate in Guatemala can be divided into different categories as per age group. The country has diseases that are majorly found in the tropics such as malaria, influenza, and other diseases that are also widespread all over the world (Frederick, 2009). These include heart diseases, bronchitis intestinal infections tuberculosis among others. Inadequate sanitation and malnutrition are also some problems that lead to death in the country.

Factors Influencing Mortality Rate in Guatemala

Socio-economic factors

Low incomes correspond directly to death rates. In this country, there are many social problems and hence it remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Approximately half of the residents of Guatemala are living below the poverty line. Resources are not equally distributed, and most people live below the poverty line. There has been civil; a war that claimed lives and led to many fleeing the country.

The war, however, ended in 1996. Other problems including high crime rates and corruption have also contributed to the high poverty levels hence the increased mortality rate. Violent harassment and intimidation of various individuals or groups by unknown people have also been a problem in the country, which led to a poor social state. Right from the history of the country, there has been an unstable condition since independence due to dictatorship and continuous civil war. Of late, Guatemala is recovering from civil and political unrest and trying to stabilize the economy.

Natural Disaster

Hurricanes are the most common cause of natural disasters in Guatemala. This is because it borders the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The well-known hurricanes that lead to mass deaths include hurricane Mitch of 1998, hurricane Stan of 2005 which claimed 1500 lives. Earthquakes are also experienced in the country. This is majorly due to the Montague fault within the Guatemala highland. The most known earth tremor occurred in 1976, which claimed 25000 lives (Nicholas, 1999). Volcanic activities are also evident in the region along the Middle American trench along the coast of Guatemala, which is active.

Despite there being enough food to feed the world’s population, people in various countries in the world still die of hunger. This factor is directly related to the socioeconomic factor, but it bears weight since it is a major cause of death in Guatemala. The people of Guatemala who live in the rural areas experience severe food shortages. They do not observe diet since they lack the economic power to ensure proper diet.

This causes major malnutrition-related infections and diseases that eventually cause death hence a high mortality rate. The most affected are the infants who require a balanced diet for growth and strength. They lack the food and end up perishing and succumbing to hunger (Walter & John, 2007). Mothers who should be breastfeeding lack food thus no milk is made available for the baby who needs the mother’s milk, to improve immunity. The children, therefore, grow with low levels of immunity making them or her vulnerable to diseases.

The mother then grows weak due to a Lack of food to regain energy after giving birth. Any attack by disease, therefore, may be fatal and hazardous to the mothers. The old are also highly endangered by malnutrition and lack of food. Chronic malnutrition may be very severe to the old since their body systems are already weak. The youthful population who may be productive also may grow too weak to perform their duties effectively.

Health Factors

The country is situated within the tropical region, which always acts as a good harbor for most pathogens since the environmental conditions are always favorable for the survival of most of the disease-causing microorganisms. The major challenge has been the administration of traditional means of treatment and the western method. Patients are always left to choose which medication, to take depending on the ailment.

The indigenous way of practicing medicine, however, was undermined by several things in the 20th century the first being religious persecution that was dominated by the catholic protestants and catholic charismatic that prohibited members from seeking traditional healing. The second factor was the fact that some ailments killed the highly ranked Maya priests. The third factor was the suppression of the traditional healers by Guatemalan healthcare that was heavily based on western medicine. The difference between traditional care and western biomedicine has caused tension such that the medical practitioners of the western biomedical underplay the social experience of their patients.

Political factors

These factors are largely related to socioeconomic factors. The government is always charged with providing health facilities and implementation of policies, which are geared towards a healthy nation. In Guatemala, there has been political unrest making it almost impossible to ensure efficient health facility provision. The burning of the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City accelerated this. About 36 people died, and another guerrilla group was started; a coup in 1983 lead to military rules (Richardson 2000). It took about ten years of violence that led to the death of thousands. It is, however, after the end of the civil war in 1996 that the country has developed a strategy on how to curb the mortality rate.

Infant Mortality Rate in Guatemala

Infant mortality refers to the number of child deaths per 1000 births within a given period. The information is always obtained by statistical methods. In Guatemala, there are 26.02 deaths per 1000 live births. This is based on the number of children under one-year-old. This indicates well on the low level of health in Guatemala.

It, however, has been witnessed in the recent past that due to the improvements on the health and education levels infant mortality rate has decreased significantly. Medicine is one field that has made a significant step in finding the cure for most diseases found majorly in tropical regions. This has helped in curbing the problem of the infant mortality rate.

The major cause is malnutrition due to high poverty levels in the country. Most infants residing in rural areas are malnourished and are in poor health state. It is known that children are the most vulnerable in any society, in such a condition. Poor health facilities and poor sanitation are major causes of disease prevalence within the nation. The use of infected water is the major cause of childhood infections.

Maternal mortality rate

This is a considerable number of women who lose their lives during the expectancy period. In Guatemala, this is estimated to be 140 deaths of mothers per ten thousand births. The chief reason for these casualties is the lack of good health facilities during birth. Most women fail to deliver normally and end up losing their lives and the lives of their babies (Nicholas, 1999). Another cause of maternal death is malnutrition, especially during pregnancy. High poverty level has accelerated this in the indigenous population not exempting rural areas where it is prominent compared to the urban. The statistics about maternal deaths are very important for all governments for various purposes. In Guatemala, the information is used as an indicator for the health condition of her people and has been very high. The government is making efforts to reduce the rate by implementing policies and promoting health conditions.

The mortality rate of the elderly in Guatemala

The elderly are also very vulnerable in the country. Due to weakened immunity and reduced organ functionality, the elderly can easily succumb to slight ailments. This has been a cause of a demographic population, whereby the number of people above the age of 60 is very low (Harry & Gary, 2002). The elderly in the nation is heavily dependent on the younger generation on food who are also suppressed by high poverty levels.

Attempts by the Government to Decrease Mortality Rate

The government of Guatemala has put up health initiative strategies to combat the problem of high mortality rates through committing to social and health investments. This, however, has been challenged by the financial crisis, and other competing priorities making her rely heavily on donor funds especially from the US. Family planning, prevention of HIV and AIDS, and other communicable infections have since been enhanced. The country has also sought help from various organizations such as the pan American Health organization world food programmed, United Nations children’s fund among others. Through these, the government has emphasized improving access to quality health services in the rural and indigenous population.

Prevention of malnutrition of children below five has also been a priority. This has been enhanced by spreading and facilitating information concerning health to the occupants of the nation. Accessibility strategies include addressing structural issues to counter the problem of exclusion. Analysis of the causes of high child mortality rate in rural areas more than the urban areas. Increased access to family planning and the use of contraceptives to control the birth rate has also been embraced. The government of Guantanamo has also emphasized quality. It has also developed policies on increasing funds to the ministry of health and legislation on health insurance, in a manner that would enhance the availability of health facilities to her people.

The major challenge faced by the country is malnutrition, which is chronic in most cases. This has compelled the government to focus on nutrition techniques, which are based on unprofessional advice. It has also worked out ways of filling the gap between the rich and the poor. Nutrition surveillance systems have been established to provide data on decision-making. Improvement of childbirth registration has also been encouraged. Making laboratory information available to enable health surveillance has also been encouraged the promotion of health facilities to international standards and certification for greater transparency.


Guatemala is a developing nation within Central America that experiences a high mortality rate. The major victims are infants, mothers, and the elderly. The major cause of this is high poverty levels that are dominant among indigenous people residing in rural areas. There is a large gap between the rich and the poor within the nation. The country has experienced a great deal of political instability, which has contributed to the high poverty level hence high death rate.

Other factors that have accelerated the death rate include natural disasters that are rampant within the region. The major mass disasters are earthquakes and landslides, hurricanes, and volcanicity. Socioeconomic factors are also a major factor that influences the mortality rate in the country. Health is a major challenge that causes an increase in mortality rate. Health facilities are few in poor condition and accessible just by a small population. Sanitation and housing are also very poor leading to a high level of infection hence an increased mortality rate.

The government, however, has made efforts to curb some of these problems. The major challenge is the lack of sufficient funds that has led to the government seeking donations from other nations and organizations. The government has also implemented policies that are geared towards reducing the mortality rate such as poverty eradication and improving health facilities.


Frederick D. O. (2009). Black Labor Migration in Caribbean Guatemala. Florida, FL: University of Florida Press.

Harry E. & Gary P. (2002). Politics of Latin America: The Power Game. Oxford, OX: Oxford University Press.

Nicholas C. (1999). Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of its Operation in Guatemala. Stanford, USA: Stanford University Press.

Richardson G. (2000). The Great Maya Droughts. Mexico, MX: University of New Mexico Press.

Walter, R., & John, P. (2007). Health Care in Maya Guatemala: Confronting Medical Pluralism in Developing Countries. Oklahoma, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.


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