Amidst beautiful landscapes, active volcanoes and a diverse indigenous population, Guatemala suffers from malnutrition and hunger. Many factors including climate threats, poverty, lack of education and low sanitation have contributed to this crisis overtime. With Guatemala having the highest population growth rate in Latin America, combating hunger is evermore important. The top 10 facts about hunger in Guatemala below demonstrate the need for help from the global community and the actions taken so far.
Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Guatemala
- Two-thirds of the Guatemalan population live on less than $2 per day. Due to this poverty, many cannot afford the most basic food items, causing Guatemala to have the highest rate of stunted growth in children under the age of five in Latin America and one of the highest rates in the world. Overall, the stunting rate is just under half of the young population but reaches up to 90 percent of children in certain areas.
- This colorful nation has the highest prevalence of chronic malnutrition in Latin America and the fourth highest in the world. In rural and indigenous areas, 55 to 69 percent of people are facing malnutrition, and in the highlands, 70 percent of children are suffering from starvation.
- Inequality in Guatemala is one of the worst in the world and the populations impacted by hunger vary. The World Food Programme (WFP) defines Guatemalan hunger as female, indigenous, rural and young. Although many people live on very little everyday, the indigenous population is particularly impacted with 80 percent experiencing poverty. Hunger, malnutrition, poor health and little education are some of the everyday challenges facing indigenous people.
- Natural disasters and climate change pose real threats to Guatemala and it is one of the ten countries most vulnerable to these threats. Recently the nation was impacted by a volcanic eruption that harmed and endangered many families. And for the past four years, Central America’s Dry Corridor has suffered from drought. This area makes up a big part of southern Guatemala and has only made hunger and subsistence farming worse.
- Subsistence farmers have struggled to feed their families partially due to droughts, which have made it harder for vulnerable communities to survive. Overuse of forests, poor land and soil, no access to credit, small plots, and a lack of agricultural tools have all caused agricultural production and profits to drop.
- Poverty and hunger impact families living in the Dry Corridor especially hard. These families have experienced so much loss and debt due to droughts and experts predict that they will suffer from food insecurity throughout the year. In other parts of Guatemala, agricultural production was sufficient enough to decrease prices and increase access to food showing once again the contrasts and inequality within this country.
- One of the factors contributing to stunting and hunger in children is the age at which females are having children in Guatemala. Most child rearing starts during adolescence and nearly 40 percent of girls have given birth by the time they are 19. With young girls facing malnutrition more than older women, their babies will be malnurished, weigh less and be stunted.
- Guatemala’s government is trying to fight hunger and has taken action to prevent malnutrition. The government implemented a plan to increase the yearly budget for nutrition and food by 2.5 percent and wants to improve the current system fighting hunger. It also started a program with a goal of decreasing the stunting rate by ten percent by 2020. It will do so by improving primary health care, water, sanitation and access to food.
- USAID has also taken action to end hunger in Guatemala. Food for Peace provides support to the WFP and other nonprofits trying to end hunger in the Dry Corridor. The program also supplies food vouchers and cash-for-training programs to help vulnerable families purchase food.
- The WFP is ending hunger in Guatemala in several different ways. This program works with the government to supply nutritious food to infants and promotes behavioral change. It is also assisting the government with institutions that help with food security and emergency situations. Similar to USAID, the WFP supports cash-for-training programs to allow families to buy food. It also supports small farms and provides humanitarian assistance during disasters.
Guatemala still suffers from hunger today but hopefully an increased awareness of the top 10 facts about hunger in Guatemala combined with efforts from multiple governments and organizations will see great results in the years to come.
– Alexandra Eppenauer