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A backpack will bring better health services to pregnant women in Guatemala

Aug 21, 2014

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, recently approved a grant of US$381,786 for a technical cooperation project that will seek to prevent maternal death and improve the quality of life of women and newborns, most of whom are indigenous, living in the departments of Alta Verapaz and San Marcos in Guatemala. The project will be executed by the EHAS Foundation in coordination with the Guatemalan NGO TulaSalud, which will provide prenatal care services to 7,500 pregnant women using a portable and low cost “Healthy Pregnancy Kit” available in a backpack. The kit will include an ultrasound scan that connects via a USB port to a laptop and is powered by a small portable solar panel. The backpack will also include a blood and urine analysis system that does not require refrigeration or electricity to store and that provides results through dry strips that can be easily transported to a hospital laboratory in the closest urban center.

In Guatemala, the 2012 maternal mortality rate was 110 deaths for every 100,000 live births; this figure is twice as high in departments with a more rural and indigenous population.  There is a coverage gapbetween urban and rural areas of the country for trained maternal health staff, which means that poor women in remote areas are less likely to receive adequate medical care. The poverty experienced in these areas also means that families prioritize other needs above women’s health.

The project will work with the staff of the brigades of nurses or health technicians who visit communities once a month through the Coverage Extension Program of the Public Health and Social Assistance Ministry (MSPAS).  In the brigades, support staff will receive the prenatal care kit backpack and the training required to ensure its proper usage. This staff will be able to perform basic ultrasounds and read blood and urine strips without the need of refrigeration or power supply. If complications are identified during the check-ups, patients will be referred to higher levels of health care, thus avoiding an emergency transfer during pregnancy. A community facilitator will be responsible for coordinating and encouraging pregnant women to attend the brigade check-ups.

In the long term, the project expects that Guatemalan NGOs that provide health services will be able integrate the kit into the different health services offered to pregnant women in rural and isolated communities. This initiative will also pilot the technical and social viability of this new technology for its possible adaptation into prenatal care strategy at the regional level.

About the MIF

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, is funded by 39 donors and supports private sector-led development benefiting low-income populations and the poor—their businesses, their farms, and their households. The aim is to give them tools to boost their incomes: access to markets and the skills to compete in those markets, access to finance, and access to basic services, including green technology. A core MIF mission is to act as a development laboratory—experimenting, pioneering, and taking risks to build and support successful micro, small, and medium business models. More information can be found at

About EHAS

The EHAS Foundation  has been registered in the Spanish International Cooperation Agency’s NGOs registry since 2005. Its mission is to improve health care in remote rural areas of developing countries through proper design and use of Information and Communication Technologies ( ICT). EHAS has worked for over 15 years in Latin America and the Caribbean, developing activities in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala. Learn more at

About Tula Salud

TulaSalud is a Guatemalan NGO that has worked for 5 years in Alta Verapaz  to strengthen health care, mainly maternal and neonatal, in remote rural indigenous communities. TulaSalud has worked in tele-education and remote training of local technicians and nurse assistants as well as telemedicine. 
Learn more at

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