Doctors Maristela Monteiro and Tomo Kanda, from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), organized three meetings to discuss the problem of alcohol consumption in the indigenous communities of Nebaj, Cotzal and Saquil, Quiché Region, Guatemala.
About 20-25 people participated in each community, including mayors, vice wardens, representatives of women's leadership groups, midwives, health educators, police representatives, young men, pregnant women, municipal court, comprehensive rural development, social workers and nurses.
Doctors Monteiro and Kanda facilitated the workshops, through questions about how participants perceived the alcohol problem and possible solutions. From the answers, Dr. Monteiro offered her comments, reinforcing that the proposed solutions will be effective if they are supported by adequate regulations, and they require community organization and mobilization. Excessive alcohol consumption was linked to suicides, violence against women and children, and homicides, as well as causing economic problems in families and damage to the community. In the three communities visited, there is consensus that the best way to change the situation is by closing the canteens.
In 2019, meetings will be scheduled to convene other groups (Alcoholics Anonymous, church leaders, university professors, mental health professionals, etc.), discuss the issue and develop a plan to support the community response. There are other indigenous communities in the country with positive experiences in alcohol control, which can also contribute their experiences and guide these communities.