When Guatemala’s Fuego volcano suddenly started to erupt in their village of San Miguel Los Lotes, people were faced with an agonizing choice – stay and be burned to death or flee through the molten streams of lava.
Someone who faced that harrowing choice was Robert, a four-year-old who ran for his life, without shoes and suffered burns to his feet and legs. His sister, two-year-old Katherine, has similar injuries, and they are now being treated in the General Hospital in Escuintla.
The children’s mother and grandmother suffered even greater burns on their bodies after the lava inundated the extended family’s three houses and are being treated elsewhere, so Robert and Katherine are now being watched over by their aunt, Sonia.
Another child from the village, 12-year-old Giovanni, was playing on the street when he heard the volcano erupt. He survived by running into the alley and jumping into the grass, burning his lower extremities. His mother is with him in the hospital, taking care of him during his stay. They lost seven of their family members in the aftermath of the eruption and 13 relatives are living in shelters in the area.
“Despite everything Robert and Giovanni have lost, they still endure. Robert gives the doctors high fives after he gets his burned feet wrapped. Giovanni smiles and finds comforts in holding his mother’s hand. Project HOPE is on the ground caring for patients like Robert and Giovanni, ensuring that these brave children get the care they need,” said Teresa Narveaz, a nurse and Project HOPE’s team leader in Guatemala.
The constant rain, recent earthquake, and the still-active status of the volcano make it difficult to access some of the villages and patients, but bus fare to Guatemala City is often too high for families to get the medical care they need. That’s why Project HOPE is working in local villages to address the health issues, such as these burn injuries, as well as underlying needs that have been made worse by the volcano like hypertension, gastritis, and malnutrition.
“What we’re seeing on the ground is a combination of volcano-related injuries and health issues exacerbated by the eruption. We’re working with the local communities to ensure patients have what they need to recover. For instance, the illiteracy rate is high in Guatemala and many patients cannot read the prescription instructions. Our team has been supporting these patients by giving them other ways to know when to take their lifesaving medications.
“People are devastated about the destruction around them. They are unsure what comes next after losing their homes and livelihoods, and medical care shouldn’t be another thing to worry about. We’re proud to be providing medical support to these communities,” said Teresa.
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