Guatemala drought sparks hunger fears | Action Against Hunger

Guatemala drought raises hunger threat

After four years of drought, hunger threatens nearly 1.5 million people

By Action Against Hunger

Jul 9 2015

Three years of erratic rainfall followed by a drought during the planting season in 2014 has put the food security of nearly 1.5 million people in danger in the Dry Corridor of Guatemala.

In the rural areas, where more than half of the population lives, families have exhausted their options.

Action Against Hunger is leading a consortium of humanitarian organizations in response to the drought in the Dry Corridor, addressing the loss of livelihood of 276,000 families across the region. “More than half of households in the Dry Corridor are facing an emergency situation, which may continue to deteriorate until August, when the first harvests of the season pick up,” said Miguel Angel Garcia, Director of Action Against Hunger in Guatemala. “In addition, the phenomenon of El Niño, which affects the frequency and amount of rainfall, will reduce crop yields of basic grains in September.”

In 2014, the region's dry corridor, which crosses Central America, suffered a drought during the months of July, August, and September – a critical time where the availability of water determines the profitability of the harvest. It is estimated that of the 275,625 families affected by the drought, 70 per cent lost harvest during the first planting and 80 per cent do not have grain reserves (WFP, 2014).

Emergency situation

Since last December, 15 per cent of the families living in the rural areas of the Guatemalan dry corridor entered a state of severe food insecurity. Many were already adopting survival strategies, such as reducing the number of daily meals and the size of meals, because they have not had basic grain reserves since March.

Lack of health coverage

Public health services have been interrupted for the second year in rural areas of many municipalities. The low prevalence of deworming and vaccination, and related diseases such as measles are an indirect indicator of the lack of access to health services. This situation is a major risk factor in the current drought situation, with a potential impact on the nutritional status of children from the most vulnerable families.

Action Against Hunger, in partnership with other humanitarian actors and with funding from the Department for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection of the European Commission, is working to respond to this situation. "As important as it is to answer the immediate needs of communities affected by the loss of their livelihoods through food distributions and cash transfers, it is equally important to teach people agricultural practices with a focus on resilience, good eating habits through diet diversification using local products, and good practices for the protection of water points.” said Jairo Paizano, response coordinator for Action Against Hunger in the dry corridor. “In addition, sharing tools and resources in a coordinated way among NGOs allows us to reach more people in need."

Action Against Hunger is also working to train the local health services to facilitate the diagnosis and referral of cases of acute malnutrition and diversify income sources through the implementation of micro-credit and cash for programs work, and promoting the creation of community emergency funds.

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