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In Guatemala, over 400,000 families are in desperate need of food due to a disastrous drought and crop failure. Guatemala’s President Alvaro Colom has declared a national state of calamity due to extreme food shortages. Hardest hit are young children and pregnant women, who are vulnerable to malnutrition and need sufficient nourishment to grow and fight off disease.
“Pregnant women suffering from malnutrition not only face serious health risks, but their unborn children suffer much higher rates of birth defects,” said Frank Bia, M.D. AmeriCares medical director. “Children with malnutrition have a weakened immune system and are vulnerable to disease. Prolonged malnutrition can cause health problems including lifelong mental and physical disabilities.”
Since September 2009, AmeriCares has sent more than $750,000 in aid to Guatemala and continues to work with local Guatemala partners to provide nutritional supplements during this critical time.
Recent food shortages are a result of the worst drought experienced by Guatemala in more than 70 years. Insufficient rain and poor soil conditions have caused massive crop failure, reducing the harvest of staple crops such as maize and beans by half in many communities.
As a developing nation dependant on agriculture, crop failure harms all facets of the country. High food prices, an outcome of the international economic crisis, have left the Guatemalan government unable to afford aid provisions despite their desperate pleas for international recognition and emergency aid.
This emergency is part of an ongoing crisis of malnutrition and poverty. As AmeriCares Latin American Program Director Rachel Granger explains, “The current situation in Guatemala adds to an already serious malnutrition problem. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in Latin America, so the crop failures coupled with decreased help from abroad makes it harder for families to feed themselves and their children.”
AmeriCares has been fighting malnutrition since the 1980s when a famine in Ethiopia killed an estimated one million people. AmeriCares has responded to food crises around the world with shipments of nutritional supplements, essential medicines and supplies, and grants for nutrition programs in countries in places such as El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Malawi, Niger, Somalia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan.