Guatemala has the largest economy in Central America, boasting a total GDP of $86 billion and a per capita GDP of $5,025. Before COVID-19, the country experienced stable growth between 2010 and 2019. However, the pandemic caused poverty to surge to 59% in 2020. So far, the government’s response has helped mitigate the socioeconomic impact. And as a result, projections suggest a poverty rate decrease to 54.2% by 2024. Despite a decline of 1.8% in 2020, Guatemala’s GDP grew by 8% in 2021. Overall, the government continues to work toward breaking the cycle of poverty in Guatemala.
The World Bank’s Support
On Oct. 20, 2022, the World Bank approved a Development Policy Loan (DPL) of $250 million to support the poor and vulnerable in Guatemala, promote a “green recovery” and enhance public sector transparency. This loan is in addition to the $500 million loan granted in 2020. These funds aim to reverse the economic losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic by improving access to health care for all communities. One of the plans for the DPL is to support school feeding programs, where the goal is to increase the number of beneficiaries from 2.56 million as of 2019 to 3.01 million students by 2024. In 2017, the World Bank granted Guatemala a $100 million loan to address chronic malnutrition, as the country reported the highest malnutrition rates in Central America.
Efforts to Alleviate Malnutrition
The government of Guatemala faces the challenge of eradicating all forms of malnutrition by 2030. According to the World Food Program (WFP), half of the population cannot afford a basic food basket, with one in five children under 5 years old suffering from stunted growth. In the hardest-hit communities, stunting rates reach as high as 90% for all children. However, Guatemala launched the “National Strategy for the Prevention of Chronic Malnutrition” in 2016 and assigned the World Bank’s “Grow up Healthy” project. According to the Global Hunger Index, Guatemala’s score improved from 21.7 in 2014 to 18.8 in 2022. Additionally, the prevalence of stunting in children decreased from 45% in previous years to below 40% in 2022.
Food For The Poor (FFTP)
In 2022, FFTP partnered with Caritas Arquidiocesana to implement three water distribution projects in three Guatemalan departments. These projects aided 100 families, alongside helping an additional 332 families. The partnership also improved Los Anonos schools by replacing roofs, gutters and restrooms while upgrading water systems.
Furthermore, FFTP collaborated with Archdiocesan Caritas to construct 50 homes in Chiyani, 51 in Los Prires, 40 in the village of El Tablon and 45 kitchens in Hatio and Cofradias. FFTP has been supporting Guatemala since 1996.
Approximately 80% of Guatemala’s rural population lives in poverty. Organizations including Mercy Corps have been working to assist Guatemala since 2001 by addressing violence, improving health and providing economic opportunities for rural communities. In 2019, their services benefited more than 333,000 Guatemalans. In the agricultural sector, Mercy Corps is helping small farmers to differentiate and track their crops to improve crop quality and increase their incomes.
While poverty is still an issue in Guatemala, the country made some progress in the right direction. Communities, towns, villages and cities are seeing a reduction in child and adult malnutrition. With organizations such as Mercy Corps making contributions toward breaking the cycle of poverty in Guatemala, there is hope for even more progress.
– Joshua Rogers