The United Nations, together with the Guatemalan Government and aid partners, today launched a $34 million appeal to counter food shortages affecting 2.7 million people living in the Central American country’s so-called ‘dry corridor,’ which even before last year’s drought had one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today’s appeal will complement national relief efforts and provide support for food, health, nutrition, agriculture and early recovery, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene projects for six months for some 680,000 people living in departments in the eastern section of the country, including the dry corridor – Jutiapa, Santa Rosa, Zacapa, Chiquimula, El Progreso and Baja Verapaz – and the neighbouring Izabal and Quiché.
Global acute malnutrition among children under the age of five in the dry corridor and the two neighbouring provinces is at 11 per cent, and at 13 per cent among women of child-bearing age. Both figures are above the emergency threshold of 10 per cent.
The dry corridor had faced annual food shortages before, but this year, the situation is exacerbated by a combination of bad weather and bad economics.
El Niño-affected rainfall patterns in the country lead to high losses in hillside and subsistence agricultural production.
Meanwhile, rising food prices brought on by the global economic crisis, a decrease in remittances, cost increases for agricultural inputs and a decrease in employment opportunities for unqualified labour has led poorer people suffering from decreased capacities to access food and basic services.
The situation of Guatemala’s food shortages has received increased international attention. The World Food Programme (WFP) recently held a video competition about the 1 billion people hungry in the world and the two aspiring filmmakers who won the grand prize are heading to Guatemala to highlight the plight of the drought-ridden country’s people.