In Photos: Malnutrition in Lush Guatemala

Nutrition Guatemala

On a trip to Guatemala, PBS NewsHour Senior Correspondent Hari Sreenivasan and Chicago Council on Global Affairs Senior Fellow Roger Thurow found an agricultural paradox. The nutrient-rich land is healthy and robust, but the people are not — half of the children in Guatemala are malnourished, and even more so in rural areas.

As Guatemala wakes up to its malnutrition crisis, Sreenivasan’s photos bring the paradox to light.

Maria Pilar, with 5-month-old Blanca on her back, weeds a field of peas. While she works this crop to harvest for export, she doesn’t use the vegetables in her own diet. And that’s one of many reasons for the 70 to 80 percent childhood malnutrition rates in rural Guatemala.

Most of the food tilled from the flat valleys near the PanAmerican highway is quickly exported away to places like the U.S.

The verdant western highlands of Guatemala.

At 6 feet 3 inches, journalist Roger Thurow towers over the Chumil family of Guatemala. Childhood malnutrition can lead to physical stunting.

Studies show that besides genetics, childhood malnutrition plays a role in physical stunting. These adult women of the western highlands of Guatemala were barely past 4 feet tall.

Women participating in Government and NGO programs bring their children in for regular height and weight measurements.

Some families who are part of a pilot program receive a goat to begin turning its milk and cheeses into protein to address childhood malnutrition.

Families pay a subsidized amount for need-based rations that may supplement their diets by 20 percent a month.

Baby Lidia was underweight for a couple of months due to diarrhea likely from water born parasites.

From dried goods, to school supplies to shoes and clothes, the general stores are where commerical producs meet rural Guatemalans.

Always surprising how successful the distribution supply chain to reach even the remote highlands of rural Guatemala.

Similar to American junk food, the cheap and non-nutritious wrappers are found across Guatemala.

Like any other city, Guatemala City has Class A real estate with all the amenities while the rural poor lack access to basic nutrition.

Women in rural Guatemala usually carry their babies in a sling made out of cloth called rebozos.

Without intervention 50-70 percent of Guatemalan children will continue to grow up malnourished, costing their families and society in the long run.

All photos by Hari Sreenivasan. Originally published by PBS NewsHour.