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Guatemala: A hunger crisis eating up the poorest of the poor

By Mayra Beltran de Daetz

GUATEMALA: At the end of August 2009, the people of Guatemala found out, through the media, that there were towns that were suffering from the damage caused by a winter without rain. Because there was no rain, many harvests were lost and, as a result, thousands of families are dying from hunger.

Dry Corridor map.jpg

It was said that more than 689 communities were affected that were located in the “dry corridor.” It is referred to this way because these are areas that experience more droughts throughout the year. The area is formed by the regions: Baja Verapaz, El Progreso, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Jalapa, Jutiapa and Santa Rosa.

It is estimated that 54,564 families are going hungry.

As soon as the newspapers found out about the situation, stories of cases of children who had died from serious and chronic malnutrition, along with their heartrending pictures, appeared in the pages of the newspapers.

If it had not been for the photo captions where the ages of the children were reported, people would not have known the real ages of the dying since their physical appearances didn’t correspond to their chronological ages. The pictures reveal such a horrendous situation that the extent of it makes a person feel powerless and impotent to do anything to help.

As expected after the sensational news appeared in all the print media, television and radio began reporting on the situation, along with, the government’s reaction. Government officials informed the public that they were already taking action, like evaluating the nutrition levels of thousands of children and distributing bags of food.

The private sector also took action. One private organization that has been outstanding in its response has been the Foundation Castillo Córdova which published an announcement inviting churches, universities, schools, companies, and groups to donate money. The donations were then distributed to the people in the needed areas.

Throughout the reporting of the hunger crisis, Guatemala’s president was criticized for not seeing the full reality of how bad the situation really was inside the republic since there were supposed to be programs in place to help avoid these types of situations.

Starving Guatemalan child.

When a woman from one of the families affected by the famine was interviewed, she said that though her daughter was a beneficiary of the program “My Family Progresses, she said her 3-year-old granddaughter had only gotten worse.

Many of the families who were interviewed in the most hard hit areas experiencing extreme hunger revealed that their nutritional diet consisted of tortillas with chile or salt.

If it had not been for the head of pediatrics at the Hospital of Jalapa, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez, who informed the mass media about the hunger crisis and its consequences, the country and the world would not have known about it.

Yet, shortly after notifying the media, this doctor received an unwarranted transfer from his position — one that he had held for ten years. It is sad to find out about such retaliations, since thanks to him the emergency plan to help these people was set in motion.

Human Rights organizations are coordinating an “Against the Hunger” campaign comprised of social and religious organizations, mayors and groups whose objectives are to fight the nutritional crisis happening in the rural areas of Guatemala.

It’s important to know that this horrible crisis touched the hearts of Guatemalans everywhere who answered in solidarity and went to the aid of the people who needed it by helping those organizations that were collecting food and distributing it to the people impacted by the hunger crisis.

It is a testament to Guatemala, that even with so many hardships affecting the country lately, Guatemalans still have a warm place in their hearts and have not forgotten that we are human beings who must help help others who need our hand.

Learn more about Mayra:

Mayra Etna Beltrán Molina de Daetz is a native-born Guatemalan who lives in Guatemala City with her husband and teenage son. After attending one of the most noted secretarial schools in the country, Mayra graduated with a secretarial certification — and the ability to speak and write English, as well as, know French.

Yet, she wanted more of a career and so she took architect and graphic design classes at a local university in Guatemala City. Unable to finish her university studies due to finances, Mayra became a stewardess and has over 100 hours in the air.

Yet, she always wanted to be involved with the media and so she returned to school and was able to get a degree in sales and marketing.

As a result, she has worked for a weekly magazine and a newspaper.

I have had opportunity to attend International congresses, in which I have known very important people at the more important international newspapers, which has been a very gratifying experience and has allowed me to have friendships outside of my country.

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