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Guatemala Pushed To Hunger Tipping Point

Sustained drought, high food prices and a sharp drop in money from relatives working abroad have left many thousands of Guatemalan families struggling to feed themselves. The Ramos family are among those hit. Their baby girl is starting to show the effects of malnutrition.

GUATEMALA CITY – The Ramos family, who live in the village of Tecuiz San Agustín Acasaguastlán, are struggling on the edge of survival with no work and not enough to eat. Lázaro, 32, and his wife Maria Luisa, 28, have seven children, one of them a newborn baby girl.

“I have not been able to find any job as a day labourer for some time. We don’t have any money and can’t buy any food,” said Lázaro, whose village is in the 'dry corridor' in Guatemala's eastern-central region.

Even if Lázaro could afford seeds, the drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon has also made it impossible for him to plant crops to feed his family.

Hunger in Guatemala

One of the poorest countries in Central America, Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. Poverty and hunger are worst among the indigenous population of rural Guatemala, where flooding and droughts pose a constant threat to food security. Learn more.

Fighting to survive

As a result, the Ramos’ children are weak and underfed. Their baby daughter and one of her sisters have begun showing signs of acute malnutrition, a situation Maria Luisa says she can do little to help.

“I know my daughter is sick and needs to go to the hospital, but I cannot leave the rest of the children behind,” she said.

For the last three months, this family of nine has gotten by on food assistance from WFP which provides them with emergency rations of maize, beans, vegetable oil and corn soy blend that cover half of their nutritional needs.

A call for help

However, Guatemala's rising need has put enormous strain on WFP’s food stocks in the country, which have fallen to their lowest level in years. No food distributions have taken place since the end of January 2010. The situation in the extended 'dry corridor' is getting worse.

In order to survive until the September harvest, the Ramos family and thousands of others like them are in dire need of additional assistance.

The World Food Programme is appealing to the international community for a contribution of US$14 million for life-saving operations to provide food assistance to 47,000 families for a six month period until the next harvest.