Support Committee

Seventy One Percent of Indigenous People Suffer from Malnutrition in Chiapas.

55% of all people in Chiapas suffer from malnutrition. Among indigenous people, it is over 71%!! Moreover, 33% of indigenous children suffer from what is regarded as "extreme malnutrition." In rural areas of Chiapas, the population does not meet the minimum requirements for protein and calorie intake. The average expenditure for food is less than 22 pesos (US$2.20) per person per week. Malnutrition is the sixth leading cause of death among indigenous people of all ages in Chiapas. The unhealthy conditions in which people live contribute further to their susceptibility to disease. One- half of the population of Chiapas lives in a 1 room or 2 room house with a dirt floor. Among the indigenous population, 7 out of 10 live in houses with dirt floors. This same percentage cooks with firewood. Only 50% of the indigenous population of Chiapas has electricity, while only 4 out of 10 houses in Chiapas have running water. A mere 16% of the houses in Chiapas have sewage systems. There is one doctor for every 25,000 inhabitants in areas where the indigenous population exceeds 70% (the rural areas) ! More than a million Chiapas residents lack access to health care. (The population of Chiapas is only 3.5 million!)

These shocking statistics, among others, are documented in Bulletin #129, published in September 1998 by researchers from the Community Action Center for Political and Economic Research in Chiapas (CIEPAC, for its initials in Spanish).

We saw these conditions when we visited Francisco Gómez, located east of Ocosingo in the cañadas (glens) of the Lacandón Jungle. We met with local health promoters who confirmed that malnutrition is a serious problem because there is not enough food. The regional health promoter explained that the problem with malnutrition in children begins when the mother is pregnant. She is malnourished and suffers from anemia, so her baby is born with malnutrition. This makes the baby more susceptible to all diseases, and there are no vaccines with which to immunize them. Nearly 50% of the infants born in that region die before the age of 5 years! Many die from chronic diarrhea or other curable diseases.

We toured the tiny 3-room clinic in Francisco Gómez. It was built in 1995 with contributions from Mexican citizens. A doctor visits once a month. In emergencies, the nearest hospital is a government hospital in the city of Ocosingo, three to four hours and numerous military checkpoints away. The dream of all the health promoters is to expand the clinic into one which would provide a full range of health services for everyone in the region. The health promoters asked for our help with two things: laboratory testing equipment and pre-natal vitamins. We agreed to start a campaign upon our return to the Bay Area. Please help us raise this money to improve health care in the cañadas of the Lacandón Jungle. Thank you!