Fighting Hunger in Guatemala
Widespread poverty, deep-rooted inequality, a rapidly changing climate and frequent natural disasters are driving hunger in Guatemala.
Guatemala is one of the most unequal countries in all of Latin America. It is multi-ethnic with a rich cultural heritage, but poverty and discrimination disproportionately affect women and indigenous people. Mix that with increasingly extreme weather and the current COVID-19 crisis and you get a population deeply vulnerable to hunger.
Two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2 per day
Nearly 50% of children under five are stunted
More than half of indigenous women can't read
an uphill battle
With the highest level of gender inequality in the region, women in Guatemala are more likely to face poverty than men, and rates of violence against women still remain high. In countries facing famine, extreme conflict and hunger – women often eat last and least. They often have the most responsibilities in the home, but the smallest amount of food, sacrificing themselves for their children.
Long dry seasons have hurt Guatemalan farmers in the past few years. Poor soil conditions, over-exploited forests, degraded lands, the small size of plots, and lack of access to credit, agricultural supplies and technical know-how make matters worse.
Guatemala is one of the top ten countries most vulnerable to climate change in the world, and the fourth most exposed to natural disasters in the region. Long dry spells mean small harvests or even total crop failures of corn and beans. This is pushing farmers and their families even further into hunger.Photo: WFP/Miguel Vargas
Almost half of Guatemala can't afford the cost of the basic food basket. That means the rate of stunted children under five is one of the highest in the world – and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean. It's a middle-income country, but most people still live in poverty. Indigenous Mayans make up nearly half the population, with a poverty rate of 80 percent (and 40 percent live in extreme poverty).
The Devastating Dry Corridor
For the fifth consecutive year, erratic weather patterns like prolonged dry spells and excessive rains have devastated corn and bean crops in the Dry Corridor of Central America, which includes Guatemala alongside Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. Increasingly extreme weather leaves farmers and their families prone to hunger and malnutrition, and has been devastating crops and driving migration and hunger.
Elio Rujano, a WFP communications officer based in Panama, has witnessed firsthand the impact climate change is having on families in the Dry Corridor who are already struggling to survive.
Helping Guatemalans Fight Inequality
WFP has been in the country for over 40 years, working in four key areas:
WFP focuses on feeding kids under two, working to change community nutritional habits in rural communities with high rates of stunting: Alta and Baja Verapaz, Sololá and Chimaltenango.
WFP works with the Guatemalan government to get food assistance to people affected by natural shocks like floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides and droughts.
With help from WFP, more than 9,000 families in remote, disaster-prone areas get food or cash in exchange for working on community projects that increase their resilience to climate shocks.
Support for Farmers
WFP works with farmers’ organizations to improve their incomes through increased and better-quality production, reduced post-harvest losses and sales of surpluses to markets.