“Mothers are not dying because of diseases we cannot prevent or treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving”.
Mahmoud Fathalla, Gynecologist and Obstetrician.
UN Population Award 2009.

In many places in the world, being a mother is one of the greatest health risks. According to the WHO, about 830 women die every day from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. Almost all these deaths occur in developing countries, specially in rural areas, and most could have been avoided with access to adequate medical means.

HEALTHY PREGNANCY is a project of EHAS Foundation that focuses on this health gap and is committed to innovation for health in rural areas, to bring excluded populations closer to quality prenatal care. A simple backpack contains a kit that allows to perform ultrasound and analysis and identify obstetric risks in time in the most vulnerable contexts, guaranteeing the right of women to a safe maternity and combating a serious public health problem with an innovative, sustainable and efficient solution.

The project was born in 2012 in Guatemala with the support of the TulaSalud Association and the Health Directorate of Alta Verapaz, dependent on the MSPAS, extending in 2014 to San Marcos, Guatemalan departments where it has provided prenatal care to more than 21,000 women in rural communities, trained more than 50 nurses from the rural health network in obstetric ultrasound and demonstrated a reduction in maternal and neonatal mortality of 35%. These achievements have been recognized by the Vidanta 2019 Foundation 1st Award “Contributions to the reduction of poverty and inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean” and the 2017 MAPFRE Foundation Award for the Best Health Promotion Initiative. Moreover, in 2019, the magazine «Reproductive Health» reflected on the scope of the intervention in the article «Detection of high-risk pregnancies in low-resource settings: a case study in Guatemala».

In February 2021 the project continued to expand in Guatemala, extending to the department of Huehuetenango, a region with the most serious maternal health indicators in the country. This escalation is the result of the support of the Health Area Directorate of Hueuetenango and the financing of the Call for Development Cooperation Projects 2020 of the Community of Madrid, which allowed throughout 2021 and 2022 to bring new isolated territories of the municipality of Santa Cruz Barillas the solution proposed by the project.In the same way, since February 2022, the AECID (Spanish Agency for International Cooperation) has been supporting the expansion of the initiative in Huehuetenango, in this case to bring the municipality of Santa Eulalia and all of Santa Cruz Barillas up to 2024 with decisive diagnostic tests to guarantee the right to health of Guatemalan women during their pregnancy.

The key ideas of HEALTHY PREGNANCY


Despite the progress made in recent years, rural areas of Guatemala continue to have high rates of maternal and neonatal mortality. Some paradigmatic cases are the departments of Alta Verapaz, San Marcos and Huehuetenango, where the project is being developed, which have a large indigenous population living in conditions of poverty and with limited access to health services with specialists and quality diagnostic tests. This means that women, as long as they have resources, have to travel for hours to receive adequate medical care that guarantees them a risk free pregnancy.


The high rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in rural areas are mostly due to pregnancy complications that are not detected in time and lead to high-risk births. These obstetric complications are easily preventable through the use of tests considered essential in urban areas such as ultrasounds and blood and urine tests. However, how can these tests be performed in places without electricity that feeds equipment and maintains the cold chain?


HEALTHY PREGNANCY is a project that works to overcome the barriers presented by isolation and a lack of gynecology specialists in rural areas with an innovative portable Prenatal Care kit, specially designed for use in isolated zones. EHAS, together with its local partner TulaSalud, is training and equipping rural health personnel with a simple backpack that includes a portable ultrasound scan powered by a foldable solar panel. The kit includes a blood and urine testing system using instant test strips, which is especially useful on rural contexts. This combination of tests ensures a prenatal control of a similar quality to that offered in urban settings with greater access to health services, detecting obstetric problems in time and referring risky deliveries to health centers with adequate means.


HEALTHY PREGNANCY was born in 2012 thanks to the financial support of the UPM. The initial results created optimistic perspectives on the protection of the right to health of women in developing regions, showing how this solution allowed to detect complications in time and avoided urgent transfers in remote areas. This impact piqued the interest of International Cooperation entities as AECID, the USAID Development Innovation Ventures program and the MIF-IDB, which allowed to expand in Alta Verapaz and San Marcos since 2014. The effective implementation of the project led to the addition of support from donors in 2017 such as Javier Entrecanales and Sandrine Woitrin, and in 2018 of the Community of Madrid to consolidate the solution in Alta Verapaz and San Marcos. Since 2021, this same financier, the Community of Madrid, has supported its expansion in Huehuetenango, a department to which the AECID joins again to continue the expansion from February 2022. In addition, ways to replicate the initiative continue to be explored in new areas of Guatemala, as well as in other countries with similar needs in their rural areas, such as Bolivia.


The innovation, impact and efforts made by public health personnel and organizations linked to this project have recently been recognized with the 1st Vidanta Foundation Award 2019 “Contributions to the reduction of poverty and inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean”, which will be received on November 7 in Mexico City. The Vidanta Foundation, in collaboration with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), has cited HEALTHY PREGNANCY as an appropriate, sustainable and innovative model in the fight against one of the largest health gaps in the world.

Also, in june 2019 the MAPFRE Foundation gave the project the 2017 Prize for the Best Health Promotion Initiative, an international award that recognizes the work of institutions and people whose contributions improve the life of the society in key areas such as health.

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