8.6 million people living in Central America ‘drought corridor,’ UN food agency says

27 September 2002

Some 8.6 million people in Central America live in a “drought corridor” where they are exposed to recurring natural disasters and suffer periodic food shortages, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported today.

Some 8.6 million people in Central America live in a “drought corridor” where they are exposed to recurring natural disasters and suffer periodic food shortages, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported today.

Releasing the results of a new survey, the agency described many of the residents in the dry belt as “extremely poor” and noted that their lands are relatively infertile. Drought-prone areas are characterized by scarce vegetation, limited crop diversification and subsistence farming. Malnutrition in the area is aggravated by a lack of water and the absence of adequate health and sanitation services.

According to the survey, more than 84 per cent of the adults in the drought corridor, which is found in parts of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, did not finish grammar school and 37 per cent are illiterate. Nearly half of all communities do not have a teacher, while 84 per cent have no nurse or doctor.

Chronic malnutrition affects 23 per cent of all people in El Salvador, 33 per cent in Nicaragua, 38 per cent in Honduras and 48 per cent in Guatemala. WFP said over the past 10 years, residents in the drought belt have lost their ability to cope, and as a result, families have sold off small farm animals, pulled children from school, and reduced the quantity of their diet.

“These recurring droughts – and other natural disasters – leave poor families with no crops to feed themselves,” said Zoraida Mesa, WFP Regional Director. “After years of natural disasters in Central America, many of these families have nothing left to sell, nothing left to cultivate, and nothing left to eat.”

Ms. Mesa called particular attention to the impact on the region’s young people. “In these drought areas, children commonly face prolonged and repeated exposure to malnutrition,” she said. “This leads to stunted physical and intellectual growth which is extremely difficult to overcome later in life.”

WFP is currently providing 1.5 million people in the area with food aid.

 

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