Fighting hunger in rural indigenous Guatemala

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The Central America Dry Corridor is a 1,600-kilometre arid stripe of land extending from Southern Mexico to Panama. More than 10 million people live in these harsh lands that regularly suffers from floods and drought. Hunger, poverty and malnutrition are their everyday reality.

Within the Dry Corridor, Guatemala is the most hardly hit by recurrent droughts and lack of rainfall, making it almost impossible to harvest regularly. Losing yields means that entire communities cannot stock food, eat properly or collect seeds for the next season.

“We are going through hard times. It's been 4 or 5 years, if not more, that it hasn´t rained,” says 59-year Mariano, who lives close to the mountainous in the Guatemalan town of Chiquimula. A good harvest means that communities can earn daily wages by selling the vegetables they don’t need.

The situation affects everyone, especially children. The country has the highest prevalence of stunting among children under 5 in Latin America and the Caribbean, also one of the highest in the world.

In Guatemala alone, more than 1 million people are at risk of acute malnutrition and eat only once a day. In the first months of 2020, the country registered 100,000 cases of acute malnutrition, an increase of 79.4% compared to the previous year.

Coronavirus lockdown measures have forced people to stay home and brought the rural economy to a halt, further exacerbating seasonal hunger. Remittances have also dropped by 50% since the beginning of the crisis, cutting off thousands of Guatemala migrants abroad from their main form of survival.

The European Union funds humanitarian interventions to fight hunger and support rural communities living in the Dry Corridor. In Guatemala, the EU funds OXFAM and its local partners to reach the most vulnerable communities, mostly dependant from subsistence agriculture, and bring them life-saving food assistance amid the sanitary challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rosa Elvira´s family is among the more than 5,000 beneficiaries of these food and hygiene items distributions.

Text by: Daniele Pagani, Regional Information Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.