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GUATEMALA
Food crisis worsens
9/11/2009
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Government declares “state of calamity” over fatal drought and malnutrition.

Guatemala´s President Alvaro Colom has declared a “state of public calamity” as a worsening food crisis brought on by unseasonably low rainfall and economic turmoil ravages several provinces there.

The measure aims to free public funds for emergency programs to counter malnutrition.

The problem is centered in the so-called “eastern dry corridor,” which includes the provinces of El Progreso, Jalapa, Santa Rosa, Jutiapa, Chiquimula, Zacapa and Baja Verapaz.

According to government figures, more than 460 people died this year from hunger between January and June.

Some 54,000 families are facing hunger in Guatemala, and conditions threaten a total of 400,000 more.

More than half of Guatemala´s 13.3 million people live in poverty, and in a speech, Colom said malnutrition is a common problem.

“Guatemala has lived through decades of high and shameful poverty, extreme poverty and malnutrition rates, causing a long history of inequality,” Colom said. “That is the cause of this food crisis we are experiencing.”

The United Nations country team in Guatemala said climate change appears to be to blame for the drought.

“Currently, climate change is evident in this region due to increased frequency, length and intensity of dry seasons and droughts. As a result, almost every year, there are emergencies caused by depletion of food reserves, mainly of basic grains,” it said in a statement. “Low production, mainly of basic grains, is evident in most of the peasant poor and extremely poor families, where it has become even more common for families not to produce food for their own annual consumption per year; in addition to low income of economic resources of the prevailing peasant system.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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