Readout of HHS Secretary Becerra’s Bilateral Meeting with Guatemalan Minister of Health
Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra met with Guatemalan Minister of Health, Dr. Amelia Flores to discuss heath priorities and collaboration including efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing concern for the health of migrants.
Minister Flores remarked that COVID-19 cases in Guatemala have reached the highest levels since the start of the pandemic and their hospitals are at 99% capacity. She explained that this is due to people’s tiredness of restrictions and their resistance to continuing safety measures. The Minister shared a personal anecdote of a medical colleague that is in the ICU because he did not want to get vaccinated.
Secretary Becerra expressed his concern for the people and families migrating from Guatemala to the U.S. and enquired about their mental health status and physical condition. Minister Flores explained that the Government of Guatemala has been working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to care for the migrants, including providing tents and initial medical care as well education on safety and well-being best practices.
Minister Flores expressed her appreciation to Secretary Becerra for the recent U.S. donation of 4.5 million greatly needed COVID-19 vaccines to Guatemala, which facilitated a boost in their vaccine strategy and rollout. It also allowed for greater vaccination among vulnerable populations, including indigenous communities. The Minister expressed concerns over the Delta variant, which has not been detected in Guatemala, but is thought to be circulating.
Finally, the Secretary discussed his interest in further conversations on ways HHS can provide additional support to migrants, especially children and addressing the root causes of migration. Secretary Becerra explained that this is also an important personal level concern and he would like to continue to support populations most in need. CDC’s Central America Regional Office is working through the Council of Ministers of Health of Central America (COMISCA), for strengthening border health and completing a survey related to COVID among migrants that is coordinated with CDC Mexico and will work on the Mexico/Guatemala and Guatemala/Honduras borders.