Hunger crisis in Guatemala draws mounting concern from UN food agency

11 September 2009
A funding shortfall may force WFP to suspend production and distribution of  a fortified food blend in Guatemala

The head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today voiced her deep concern about the hunger crisis gripping much of Guatemala, where a combination of the global economic crisis, high food prices, a drop in remittances, harsh weather and poverty has left thousands of people struggling to find food.

Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of WFP, described the situation in Guatemala – where the President recently announced a state of emergency because of the severe food shortages – as desperate.

“Women and children have been caught in the vortex of this hunger crisis and are in a desperate struggle for survival,” she said, according to a statement issued by the agency.

Almost half of all Guatemalan children under the age of five suffer from stunting as a result of chronic under-nutrition. The numbers of children being admitted to hospital for acute malnutrition has also tripled in recent months.

The crisis is greatest in a “dry corridor” in the east of the country, where the El Niño meteorological phenomenon has resulted in a lack of rain for many months, leaving the rural poor without basic crops such as corn and beans. As many as 54,000 families living in the corridor do not have access to enough food.

WFP is already working with Guatemalan authorities to alleviate the situation, providing stocks of high-energy biscuits and other food supplies and expanding a work-for-food programme.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that the UN country team plans to issue a flash appeal in the coming days to encourage donors to help the relief efforts.

 

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