A Parallel Guatemala

I just wanted to briefly comment upon the fact that I had to get online and read the news to realize that Guatemala, a Latin country that is slightly smaller than the state of Tennessee – the country in which I’m happily living – is enduring the worst drought it has faced in 30 years. The drought is reportedly affecting 2.5 million people… and, living in La Antigua, I had no clue. The only reference I’ve heard in passing about the drought is the fact that the tomatoes are super pricey at the market right now. Other than that, I haven’t heard, seen or felt much about the fact that the Guatemalan government has declared a ‘state of public calamity.’

Report from Voice of America (VOANews.com):

United Nations agencies say Guatemala is facing the worst drought in 30 years. They report some 2.5 million people in 21 provinces are affected and in need of urgent food assistance.

The effects of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino have extended the dry spell in Guatemala, triggering a food crisis in the country. The drought has caused a reduction and loss of agricultural production.

The World Food Program says people are suffering from a combination of factors, including high food prices, the global financial crisis, unemployment and recurrent poor food crops.

WFP spokeswoman, Emilia Casella, says this situation is having a bad affect on the nutritional status of the rural poor in Guatemala, particularly women and children.

“Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean,” she said. “Nearly 50 percent of children under five years old in Guatemala suffer from chronic under-nutrition, which can cause stunting or severe weight loss. WFP is expecting that the worst-hit families will be about 54,000 families in Guatemala, although the government is estimating the number could be closer to 300,000.”

Casella says WFP so far has managed to distribute food to more than 20,000 families in affected areas. She says 20 metric tons of high-energy biscuits also are currently being distributed to more than 10,000 families. In the next few weeks, she says WFP will continue to distribute these biscuits to a further 20,000 families.

She says stocks in Guatemala are at their lowest level in years. She says WFP currently is providing a special fortified blended food to 100,000 children under three, as well as to 50,000 nursing and pregnant women in 136 communities.

The WFP spokeswoman warns this critically important program will be cut by the end of October unless the agency receives seven million dollars to fund it over the next 12 months.

More from UPI.com:

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 19 (UPI) — Guatemala’s worst drought in 30 years is affecting an estimated 2.5 million people, especially children and pregnant women, the United Nations said.

Drought conditions have been exacerbated by pest infestations, which have reduced the food supply, especially in the so-called dry corridor along the Pacific Ocean, U.N. officials said in a release Friday.

An estimated 30 percent of all pregnant women in the corridor are malnourished and 25 children have died in recent weeks, Guatemala’s Ministry of Health said.

The Guatemalan government needs $117 million in foreign aid to feed 54,000 families in the corridor and another 410,800 families elsewhere in the country, the United Nations said, noting food aid to tens of thousands of families will end this month unless more money is made available.

Nearly half of all Guatemalan children under age 5 suffer from stunting because of chronic malnutrition and the number of children being admitted to hospital for acute malnutrition has tripled in recent months, the United Nations said.

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