Because of a project Dr. Nancy Comello spearheaded, infant and postpartum mortality rates are declining among the indigenous people of Guatemala.
The founder of the nonprofit, Supporting Safe Birth, Nancy spoke to the Waunakee Rotary Club at its June 27 meeting about the work she’s done there.
She has visited Guatemala 24 times and became a Rotarian while there seeking funds for her project. The Guatemala City Rotary Club  offered her a grant, but only if she would pursue a global grant.
Nancy is an OB and has been a nurse and an educator. She currently works with Meriter-UW Hospital teaching. She originally visited Guatemala as a chaperon on one of her son’s mission trips and saw the opportunity for education there.
The population of Guatemala is 15 million but half are under the age of 22, mainly due to a civil war. Half of the population is indigenous, and earns less than $2 per day.
Nancy found that an average of two women die in child birth each day, and most of the deaths are preventable.
Midwives there who have very little education deliver the babies. While hospitals also serve the population, Nancy said when she visited them, they seemed to be similar to those from the 1930s, with women waiting to deliver put in hallways.
“It’s really a dehumanizing experience to be in the hospital and that’s where women die,” Nancy said, explaining why women would rather not deliver there.
Infant and neonatal mortality rates are high, mainly because midwives don’t know how to resuscitate a baby. Malnutrition is also a big issue.
Mothers also die due to postpartum hemorrhage, she said, mainly because midwives do not know how to stop the bleeding.
Nancy decided to provide education to midwives and nurses there, but she learned some lessons along the way. Initially, she tried teaching with dolls, which were white, and appeared dead already to the brown-skinned  Guatemalans. Secondly, she used power point presentations which the midwives could not read.
More effective was actual hands on learning with mannequins and culturally appropriate dolls.
Data has shown that the education has paid off with fewer infant, neonatal and postpartum deaths, Nancy said. During another trip in 2016 where she provided the training, a number of emergency services providers showed up, including firefighters.
Now her goal is to provide more mannequins and dolls to train leaders who can continue the training.
“They’re so excited to learn this and teach others,” Nancy said.
Grants totaling $83,000 from Rotary and other sources will help purchase these, and she hopes to get to hospitals as well.
She’ll return to Guatemala City in October to deliver the supplies and provide more training, and plans to visit every three to six months for ongoing reviews of master trainers.
For information about the project and to contribute, visit
Other news:
–New members who are looking to retire their red badge and receive a blue badge need only complete a few steps, incoming President Taylor Endres explained. Several newer members received their blue  badges.
-The senior picnic is July 10.
-Schumacher Farm has invited the club to the opening of its Center for Rural History July 14 from 4-7 p.m.
-The club thanked outgoing president Mark McFarland for his year of service.
Guests: Ronald Pulvermacher, guest of Bob Pulvermacher; “Slats,” Bob Klostermann.
Visiting Rotarians: Martha Sullivan, Downtown Madison.
Birthdays: None.
Anniversaries: July 17, Allan and Lynn Dassow; July 17, Scott and Ann Biba; July 17, Roberta Baumann and Tim Brubaker.
Greeters: July 11, Howard Teeter and Don Tierney; July 18, Jon Townley and Susan Vergeront; July 25, Sean Wayne and David Weishoff; Aug. 1, Sara Whitley and Phil Willems.