A Safe Place for Mothers-to-be

Cahabon, the site of the Casa Materna, is located in Alta Verapaz, the poorest state in Guatemala. Cahabon is what we would consider a county and has around 50,000 inhabitants.  Its population is 95% indigenous Maya Q'eqchi and most of the women staying at the Casa speak only this language.  The population is 90% rural which means they live in the mountains.  This leaves them very little land to farm which adds to their poverty and the lack of medical help with pregnancy.



World-wide each day, 800 women die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. More than 1 million children are left motherless and vulnerable every year.  An infant whose mother dies within the first 6 weeks of life is more likely to die before the age of two than an infant whose mother survives.   A mother’s death lowers the family income and productivity, affecting the entire community.

Guatemala’s maternal death rate is the second highest in the Western Hemisphere (exceeded by Haiti) and ranks 64th highest in the world. In Guatemala, 24 babies die out of every 1,000 born. 

Survival rates depend upon the distance and time a woman must travel to get skilled emergency medical care.  Three delays raise mortality rates:

  • Delay in seeking care due to cultural traditions, lack of trust in modern medical practice, dependence on male permission and non-recognition of symptoms of complications. 
  • Delay in arriving at an emergency care facility due to unavailable or too costly transportation options or often impassable roads.
  • Delay in receiving care from providers due to lack of staff, equipment or supplies
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"Sendero de muerto"

The Casa was built in the Alta Verapaz department of Guatemala in a small town called Cahabon at the request of the Northern District of the Nazarene Church, who identified maternal mortality as one of the gravest issues of the district. They asked to build the Casa in Cahabon because it is part of the Sendero de Muerto or “corridor of death”, so called because it has one of the highest maternal death rates in the country.  Cahabon is the closest town for a rural population of about 50,000 persons, 95% of who are Maya Q’eqchi’.  Women must travel over dirt roads and treacherous terrain to reach the Medical Center in the town.  The center does not have the facilities to house expectant mothers, so many are turned away if they are not in labor.  These women had nowhere to go but back to their homes.  Many would start labor on the return trip.  Many would not survive to return to the Medical Center.



With the help of volunteers from the US, the Casa Materna Ana Sayre was completed in 2009.  The mission of the Casa Materna Ana Sayre is to provide a free and safe place to stay while the mother-to-be awaits admission to the clinic. Today the Casa Materna Ana Sayre is not just an empty building built by well-meaning visitors.  It is a functioning women’s house where pregnant women can stay while awaiting labor.  All of the women who have used the Casa since it opened its doors in 2014, have given birth to healthy babies and survived.  Several of the women experienced potentially dangerous complications, but were able to be diagnosed by the resident nurse early enough to travel to the clinic or hospital in nearby Coban to receive appropriate life-saving care.  It is absolutely extraordinary to see this tangible, working result of the struggle, hard work, faith and donations of its many supporters. This is a project with real results and it is growing.


rEal results

The Casa Materna Ana Sayre is achieving real results and saving real lives, like this young family pictured one week after the birth of their first child.  This young woman stayed 5 days at the Casa before giving birth to a beautiful daughter.  As word spreads to the surrounding aldeas (small communities), more and more young women are utilizing the Casa.  With only 6 beds, the Casa is often full to over-flowing.  Success brings its own challenges and plans for growth are underway.  We need your help to continue to save lives of mothers and babies in this remote and under-served area.