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Extreme Food Insecurity Surfaces in Guatemala

Action Against Hunger intervenes after surveys in an eastern region reveal high malnutrition rates and poor harvests
ACF-Guatemala, courtesy B. Grignet (Agence-Vu)

CHIQUIMULA, GUATEMALA—Surveys carried out by Action Against Hunger | ACF International along the Guatemalan border with Honduras show widespread food insecurity and high levels of malnutrition in a region buffeted by the global recession and poor rainfalls. The global humanitarian group has intervened on an emergency and long-term basis, treating children with severe acute malnutrition and implementing nutrition, food security, and water and sanitation programs in the area.

The global humanitarian group announced today that 7.7 percent of children in the Corredor Seco region of Guatemala are acutely malnourished; another 2.4 percent have severe acute malnutrition, the more life-threatening form of the condition.

“Our teams on the ground have come across children deathly ill with kwashiorkor, an extreme form of malnutrition that we haven’t seen in this region for years,” said Jorge Salamanca, Action Against Hunger’s Desk Officer for Latin America.

The region is experiencing a shortage of basic staple foods due to poor harvests. According to ACF’s survey of 1,600 households, more than half of this year’s corn harvest, and 70 percent of the bean crops, have been lost due to insufficient rainfall. As a result, four out of 10 households reported decreasing the number of meals they consume daily; 90 percent of them have stopped consuming one of the basic food groups—either meat, grains or vegetables.

The global economic downturn has also increased the vulnerability of families and negatively affected their ability to cope with low crop yields. The local coffee and sugar industries, major employers in this part of Guatemala, have been affected particularly. Action Against Hunger has also noted a decrease in remittances from the United States and other parts of the world, a serious problem for households reliant on income from family members living abroad.

Action Against Hunger is tackling the problem on several fronts. The agency has launched an emergency response to treat children with the most severe cases of malnutrition and a cash-for-work program for vulnerable families. The agency will provide longer-term assistance through agro-forestry programs, well construction, and education in nutrition and improved agricultural techniques. Action Against Hunger has worked in Guatemala since 1998.

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