Vulnerable children in Guatemala are fighting for their lives. An estimated of children in Guatemala under five years old have stunted growth due to chronic hunger. Some of them, such as little Esmeralda, were abandoned by their parents and receive nutrition from Catholic feeding centers. Sadly, in rural or indigenous areas of the country, the number of malnourished children stands at 70 percent.
Guatemala’s hunger problem is deeply intertwined with the root causes of poverty in the country. Why is hunger affecting so many children, and what’s being done about it? Here is a closer look at the issue of hunger in Guatemala, including what we are doing at Cross Catholic Outreach to fight hunger here and how you can help.
Multiple consecutive years of drought have affected a large portion of Central America, including Guatemala. Inadequate rainfall leads to poor harvests and low agricultural production, especially for the corn and bean crops that Guatemala’s economy relies upon. When the local agricultural sector suffers, there are fewer labor opportunities for workers. This results in lower household incomes. The poorest families are unable to buy the food they need to feed their children.
There are also growing economic disparities in Guatemala, which means that the poorest families are getting poorer and hungrier. The regions of Guatemala most affected by food insecurity are the rural areas in the north, southwest and northwest.
Hunger in Guatemala has been devastating for children. For many, severe malnutrition can be too much to overcome. Those children who do not receive sufficient nutrients can suffer irreversible physical and cognitive development. But this issue has broader effects on Guatemala’s population and economy too.
The population in Guatemala has been slowly but steadily rising and now exceeds 17 million people — making it the largest country in Central America. This means that unless the country’s hunger problem is addressed, it will continue to get worse with the increased competition for resources.
Much of the Guatemalan economy has traditionally relied upon agriculture. Drought and other adverse weather conditions stand in the way of profitable production, leaving local families with few options. Bureaucratic hurdles and low education levels in Guatemala create roadblocks for families to find other means of employment outside of the agricultural sector or start their own businesses.
Fortunately, there are numerous large-scale efforts underway by Cross Catholic Outreach, as well as other Christian ministries and humanitarian organizations, to fight hunger in Guatemala. To address the malnutrition crisis and food insecurity — especially among children — organizations like Cross Catholic, USAID and World Food Program USA have developed programs that provide nutritious food to young children, support small-scale farmers, respond to natural disasters and help Guatemalan governmental institutions become more resilient and aid their own people. Other humanitarian efforts are providing cash transfers for food to vulnerable people, improving financial literacy and offering livelihood strategy training to residents.
Guatemala is one of Cross Catholic Outreach’s primary regions of focus in Latin America. We have recently worked with the St. Joseph Rescue and Nutrition Center, for example, to aid families and children living in Guatemala’s remote mountain villages. These struggling families depend on subsistence farming for their daily survival and otherwise have no access to health care or education. But through our partnership with the Capuchin Sisters, local children are being nursed back to health and given the nutrition, medical attention and health education they need.
Cross Catholic also supports El Carmelo Daycare and Feeding Center in Guatemala City. The center has been giving Guatemalan children a safe, Christ-centered place to enjoy healthy and nutritious meals.
To address the agricultural needs of Guatemalan farmers, Cross Catholic Outreach works with Father Raúl Monterroso to transform Santa Rosa through improved crop management, environmental conservation and proven strategies for better yields. In addition to training, families are given seeds, seedlings and fertilizer to plant enough corn and citrus trees to gain economic independence.
While these efforts have been very successful so far in helping Guatemalans overcome the hunger crisis, there is still much work to be done. The causes of poverty in Guatemala can seem overwhelming, but every meal you provide a child in need makes a difference.
Please donate to one of Cross Catholic Outreach’s feeding programs today. Your support will help Guatemala’s children receive the nourishment their bodies need and the spiritual hope that only God can provide. Each and every donation helps us carry out our mission of mobilizing the global Catholic Church to transform the poor and their communities materially and spiritually for the glory of Jesus Christ.